Tokyo 2020: Goalball family affair for Smith at Paralympics
Date: August 11, 2021
For most athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics they will not be able to have their family join them, but goalball player Brodie Smith will have her dad literally by her side as the Australian assistant coach.
Being part of a Paralympic squad with a sibling would be special for any athlete but Smith is even more thankful to have her father with her.
“I am extremely privileged to have my dad be part of the Aussie Belles coaching staff. For years he has been my biggest supporter and has helped me train and pushed me to my limits. I can honestly say that without my dad’s unwavering support I would not be where I am today and I am so stoked to be able to share this experience with him.”
Smith’s obvious talent also helps, first coming to prominence when she captained the under 19 side to the World Championship title in Hungary in 2017 where she also finished as the top scorer.
Competing in the Paralympics is the biggest stage of all but the 22-year-old believes her experience in Budapest will stand her in good stead.
“Winning the U19’s World Championships has given me the drive, passion and experience that I needed to overcome any obstacle and training environment I needed to in order to get myself and the Aussie Belles into a competitive position heading into Tokyo.”
As well as competing at the highest level, Smith has also had to combine her teaching degree which unsurprisingly has proved difficult, but the Newcastle University student knows how important her education is.
“Juggling university and training has been a mammoth task, particularly when doing my professional experience placements. This has meant a lot of early mornings and a lot of late nights and not much down time.
“I honestly believe that my degree is extremely important. I chose to do a teaching degree because of the impact I could have on the lives of others and that is what I intend to do.”
Having the visual impairment retinitis pigmentosa means Smith’s eyesight will gradually become worse over time and she currently has less than 10 percent of peripheral vision which she admits makes everyday life difficult but being ‘fiercely independent’ she saw goalball as an opportunity to travel the world.
“I try to be as independent as I can ‘cause I know that I can do everything that everyone else can, but for me it just takes a little bit more work, time and energy – but I know I’ll get there.
Prior to starting to play goalball I actually had a strong dislike of sports because I felt like I just couldn’t relate to it and I didn’t enjoy playing it. Over time, my attention started to turn away from travel and I found that I now played because I had fallen in love with the sport. Now, I couldn’t imagine ever playing another sport.”
The Paralympics going ahead is a great opportunity for Smith, at her maiden Games, although she admits last year’s postponement and the uncertainty this time affected her.
“Training for the games has been a challenge. I did take a break after the postponement was announced because I was mentally and physically drained in preparation for the games originally.
“It hasn’t been easy but I am better because of it and I cannot wait to take to the main stage and show the world what I, and more importantly what my team, can do!”
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will take place from 24 August – 5 September with goalball beginning on 25 August and concluding on 3 September. All competitions will take place at Makuhari Messe.
By Sam Harris | For IBSA