YORK’S Jamie Hodgson is aiming to establish himself as one of the top goalball players in the world after breaking into the national team.
The 28-year-old vision-impaired athlete, of Acomb, only took up the sport early last year and within nine months he was playing in the top tier of goalball in the country.
Goalball is a fast-paced Paralympic sport designed for people with vision impairments and is played around the world, with Hodgson representing York Goalball Club.
His rise to prominence was recognised last month when he was scouted at a Talent ID Day and invited to an England/Great Britain training camp in Germany.
Hodgson won his first international cap in Poland and has been selected for the England team to play in Spain on June 27.
“It’s a dream come true to have achieved so much in just over a year with no prior knowledge of the sport,” said Hodgson, who is aiming at the Paralympics in Rio in 2016.
“I discovered goalball in early 2012 after a support worker for my sight loss suggested that I get in touch with the club in York.
“After only a few minutes on court, I was hooked and the club coaches saw some potential.”
The father-of-two was born with retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment and often blindness.
Hodgson said: “My sight is getting worse and worse, and I will lose my sight completely. It’s been passed down through my family genes.”
Hodgson paid tribute to the many people and organisations which have contributed to his success so far – and appealed for potential sponsors to help fund his international career.
“I’d like to thank York St John University, the coaches and volunteers at York Goalball Club for their support and hard work, and Energise for letting me use their gym facilities to help me to get to the level of fitness that I’m at, plus new sponsor Transit Motorcycles.
“I’m very grateful for the support but would welcome further help from any potential sponsors or supporters who could assist me with the costs of travel, training, kit and the many other expenses that are encountered by elite level athletes.
“That would continue to support my journey to be one of the top goalball players in the world.”
Anyone interested in offering Hodgson sponsorship should email him at email@example.com
While Hodgson was representing England in Poland, club-mate Rob Tyas was coaching with the women’s team.
Tyas became involved in goalball in 2010 while he was a student at York St John University, where the prominent York club are based.
He has coached at all levels of the sport in the UK and, after attending some Great Britain training events, was appointed assistant coach for the women’s squad in Poland.
“It’s an enormous honour to represent my country in such an important event and it is a delight to see hard work being recognised,” said Tyas.
“As a coach, it is even more satisfying to see one of our players evolve from novice through to an international level athlete.”
Tyas was a founder member of York St John Inclusive Activity Club, which was formed in 2009 to provide physical activity opportunities for people with learning disabilities and/or visual impairments.
Sessions take place every Saturday at Foss Sports Hall at the university, costing £2 per person.
Further details are available by phoning YSJ Active on 01904 876300 or by emailing ysjactive@ yorksj.ac.uk