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What is goalball? Everything you need to know about the unique sport in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

The sport is one of two in the Paralympic Games that doesn't have an Olympic counterpart.
Credit: AP
Denmark's Kamilla Ryding, left, and Maria Larsen, right, try to block the ball during a women's preliminary round goalball match between Denmark and Brazil, at the 2012 Paralympics, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012, in London. Brazil won the match 2-0. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

TOKYO, Japan — The 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games are set to begin on Aug. 24!

This is the first year viewers will be able to watch the Paralympics on primetime, and many viewers will be introduced to sports they never knew existed.

One such sport is called goalball, and it is one of two sports in the Paralympics that is completely unique to the Games and doesn't have an Olympic counterpart.

RELATED: How to watch the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

Here is everything you need to know about the sport ahead of this summer's games:

How do you play goalball?

Goalball is played by athletes who have a vision impairment. Players wear eyeshades to ensure a level playing field as athletes with complete blindness compete with and against those with other vision impairments.

The game is played in silence and all outside noise, including cheering, ringtones, or coaching, is prohibited since the game relies heavily on listening and hearing.

The premise of the sport is to score goals as quickly and precisely as possible by throwing a ball with several noise bells inside in the defending team's goal while defending shots from the opposing team, the International Paralympic Committee's website said.

Each team has three players on the court in three standard positions of play, including right, center, and left. 

To score, a player must roll or bounce the ball into the opponents' goal. The player with the ball will usually stand and orient themselves using sounds from teammates, touchlines, or their own goal's crossbar.

Defending players will align themselves in a staggered position, to avoid collisions, and will lay out on their hips and stretch their arms and legs when they hear the other team throw the ball to stop the ball from being scored.

The official rules of goalball can be found on the International Blind Sports Federation's (IBSA) goalball website here.

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Credit: AP
Anna Dahlberg, center, of Sweden blocks the ball during their women's Goalball bronze medal match against Finland at the 2012 Paralympics games, Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, in London. Sweden won the match to take the bronze medal. (AP Photo/Raissa Ioussouf)

How did goalball start?

Before goalball became the premier team sport for blind athletes in 112 countries, it started as a type of therapy for blind veterans, according to the United States Association of Blind Athletes' website.

The sport was originally created in 1946 by specialists from Austria and Germany as an effort to ease the rehabilitation process for World War II veterans who were visually impaired.

It wasn't until the 1972 Paralympic Games in Heidelberg, Germany when the game made its first appearance on the Games' stage. It made its debut as an official Paralympic men's sport at the 1976 Paralympic Games in Toronto and as a women's sport in the 1984 Paralympic Games in New York.

The sport has been part of every Paralympics since.

The first World Championships for the sport were appropriately held in Vocklamarck, Austria in 1978. The IBSA now holds a World Championship every four years in between the Paralympic Games.

Who are the top goalball athletes currently?

Brazil, Lithuania, and China are currently the top-ranked men's global goalball teams, with Team USA ranked eighth in the world, according to the IBSA's goalball website.

Turkey, China, and Brazil are the top three women's global goalball teams, with Team USA closing in at fourth in the world.

See all of the top-ranked athletes from both the men's and women's divisions on the IBSA's goalball website here.

Arizona Paralympians 

Watch 12 News' coverage of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. We're featuring Arizona athletes and other amazing stories from the Games on our 12 News YouTube playlist here.

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