A Charlottetown native hit the world arena Saturday at the London 2012 Paralympics. Amy Kneebone, 22, plays centre with the Canadian women's goalball team, which lost 2-1 in its opener to Sweden. Kneebone scored Canada's only goal.
Kneebone is visually impaired. Goalball is a team sport for men and women who are blind or partially sighted. A team has six players but only three players per team can be on the court at any one time.
Goalball is played with blackout visors covering the eyes. Team mates pass a ball with a bell inside it to one another and bowl it over the other team's goal-line.
The Canadian women should be a medal favourite after winning the IBSA world championship in April 2011 in Turkey and earning bronze at the 2011 Parapan American Games in November 2011 in Mexico.
Four years ago in Beijing, where Canada finished fifth after golds in 2000 and 2004, Kneebone was a rookie and saw action in just two games. This time around she's the go-to player.
Kneebone and fellow Paralympic returnee Nancy Morin, 37, of Longueuil, Que., are the remaining players from the 2008 squad.
With two-time Paralympic gold-medallist Contessa Scott of Clyde River no longer in the picture, Kneebone becomes one of the veterans on a young team, which carries an average age of 22.
Kneebone said she feels more prepared this time around.
"I've been to plenty of competitions now with Canada in the last four years, so I think just having more court experience has definitely helped me," she said.
She said the key in this major tournament is to treat it no differently from any other event. "It's looking at it as it's just another tournament. Hyped up a little bit, there's more people, one of the biggest tournaments you'll ever play," she said.
"As soon as the visor's on it's just another…court. I'll have to defend it like I would if I was back in Canada playing a tournament in Calgary or something."
Since May, the team has centralized its training camp in Ottawa. Training includes up to five days a week of goalball-specific drills and exercises, a switch from previous years when players would train on their own, meet once a month for a short training camp with the rest of the team and compete in tournaments.
Now, the group lives, trains, eats and works out together on top of playing tournaments. Kneebone said being together is a positive even if they see the same people day after day.
"Everyone needs their quiet time, but it's not bad at all," said Kneebone. "Team chemistry gets a whole lot better."
Kneebone's other Paralympic team mates are Jillian MacSween of Halifax, Ashlie Andrews of Penticton, B.C., Cassandra Orgeles of Fort Erie, Ont., and Whitney Bogart of Thunder Bay, Ont.
Ten women's teams - Canada, defending Paralympic champion United States, China, Denmark, Great Britain, Brazil, Sweden, Australia, Japan and Finland - qualified for London, up from eight in 2008.
The 2012 Paralympic Games run from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9 in London, England.