“The pride of wearing the maple leaf is all the motivation I need” – Canada’s Amy Burk on a different looking 2020
Date: June 22, 2020
By Alison Thompson | For IBSA
With athletes across the world impacted by coronavirus and adapting to a new normal, Canadian goalball player Amy Burk is already focused on 2021.
A few months ago the list of teams for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games was announced. With all qualifiers complete there would be no changes, even after the postponement of the Paralympics.
Canada’s women were one of the sides to have booked tickets for their 11th Paralympics.
“Although it’s going to be a challenge staying motivated, I like to think of it as we now have a whole extra year to prepare,” Burk said.
This has become a common theme amongst athletes who have managed to find the positives in a difficult year.
“Of course my team and I are extremely disappointed about Tokyo but everyone’s health has to come first and we fully support the decision. Before the announcement, our team preparations were going well and we could feel ourselves improving”, says Burk, the top scorer at last year’s Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru.
So for the rest of 2020 the 30-year-old, who lives with Albinism, is using the enforced break to stay active, strong and motivated. Burk says the team are already starting to prepare mentally for 2021, and have a ‘tentative’ plan for returning to training in the autumn.
A stalwart in the Canadian team since she was a teen, Burk has achieved much in her career.
Having moved from her beloved Charlottetown to Ottawa at just 18-years-old after her Beijing 2008 debut, she has also had the honour of representing her country at London 2012 and Rio 2016, and is rightly proud of her journey so far.
“It was pretty cool to be a part of such a great team from such a young age. I had great role models and anytime you get to wear the maple leaf and represent your country is just a huge honour. It's unbelievably amazing knowing you're representing your country at the top sporting event. Knowing that you’re good enough to make the team that gets to wear the maple leaf is just that much more motivation to keep working hard and not letting anyone take that spot from you.
Having experienced the first thrill of success with a second place finish at her first national championships back in Charlottetown, things could have, by her own admission, turned out a little different. Having tried goalball first at the age of 12, Burk initially decided it was not for her before going back a year later.
“This time, I fell in love with it and I knew that this was something I wanted to pursue and try and get to the highest level and represent my country.”
In recent years though it has not been easy. Tokyo 2020 qualification was the ultimate goal, and it was a tough road to get there.
Canada finished fourth at the 2018 IBSA Goalball World Championships, just missing out on spot. At the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games, which doubled-up as the Americas Championships, the team also had an agonising time.
“I’m a very competitive person and am always going to try and find a way to help our team win. It was unfortunate that in Lima we fell short of making it to the gold medal game after losing to Brazil in double overtime. But, our team played really well and we proved to ourselves that we can play strong and alongside two of the powerhouses in Brazil and America.”
Canada did enough to qualify in the end with fifth place at the 2019 International Qualifier in Fort Wayne, USA.
Positive she may be and always a team player, Burk, a proud mum of two young boys is not complacent about what she needs to continue her journey.
“I have had great success and failure at the highest level and no matter what, I always return home with the support and love from everyone. It's already a huge accomplishment to get to do what I do and any success is just icing on the cake. Looking back to the once shy quiet person I was, I don't think anyone would have thought I would have turned into the person I am today if it wasn't for goalball. I have met so many great people, made many friends and have memories I will cherish for a lifetime.”
And the love of sport and future of goalball can hopefully be in safe hands as Burk passes on her positivity, determination and experience to her children. “Goalball has had a huge impact on my life. I’ve gained so much confidence in myself, seeing other people with a visual impairment and how they go on with their life showed me that I can do whatever I want.
“Having albinism wasn't going to be what defined me. Sport is a big part of my life, I even met my husband through sport and I do hope that one day it becomes a big part of my children’s lives. They both also have albinism so goalball could very well be something they take up. We also now have youth programmes for blind hockey. My oldest has been trying that and seems to like it. We will also be putting our little guy in as well when he gets a bit older.”
For now Burk will be making the most of her time at home, doing as much training and preparation as possible ready for next year.
“Each Paralympics that I have been to has been special in its own way. The feeling never gets old. The adrenaline that rushes through your body when you’re marching in for the opening ceremonies or onto the court is a feeling you can't even explain.
“Our hope is to obviously win a medal in Tokyo but we know the journey is a marathon not a sprint. We will go into it with just focusing on one game at a time and not worry about the overall outcome. As for me personally, I’ve yet to accomplish my ambition of standing on the podium at a Paralympics. That fire drives me to be the best I can be.”
In addition to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, which will now run from 24 August – 5 September, IBSA Goalball has recently announced the major event schedule for the coming years.
Headlining is the 2022 IBSA Goalball World Championships which will take place in Hangzhou, China, from 3-15 July.
Canada will appear at the IBSA Goalball Americas Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in November 2021 on their road to Hangzhou 2022.