THE No.1 rule for those watching goalball is that there must be absolute silence, which the pre-game announcement at the London Paralympics venue made abundantly clear.
"Please everyone be quiet, they have been training for a long time and deserve your attention, thank you," the PA system declared before a game yesterday.
As the players, who are vision impaired, wear blindfolds to ensure equality of vision — or, more specifically, lack of vision — it is obvious why silence is needed.
There are three players on each team on an 18-metre long x 9-metre wide court, who line up in front of a 1.3m high goal that extends the width of the court.
The players take turns rolling a 1.25 kilogram ball, which has bells inside it, at pace towards the other end of the court to try to get it past the defenders and into the goal. The defenders must synchronise to form a barrier to try to intercept the ball.
Despite what seems a relatively simple objective, goalball is deceptively complex. There are myriad throws that can be used to deceive the defenders.
"You can do flat throws, smooth flows, scoops, bounces, discus and all those have different feet patterns as well so you've got to always concentrate on the sound of the ball," Australian women's team member Meica Christensen said. "Then they also curve it, which goes a lot slower so you've got to really have good timing for those sorts of balls."
Australian teammate Nicole Esdaile said: "You've really got to focus in your defence on tracking the ball as it comes down the court and leaving your dive as late as you can so you're not going the wrong way.
"With bounce it's a similar kind of thing, if people get really high bounces on the ball you've got to really focus to be there, you don't want to dive too early or it will just go straight over you."
Esdaile, who has oculocutaneous albinism, said goalball was a great outlet for her.
"For me it's one of the only team sports that I can play," she said. "It's difficult for me to see a soccer ball or something like that so when I found goalball I fell in love with it instantly because I could get out there and you can really be aggressive but you can be smart as well and think about what you're doing, so it's a really intricate sport, so it's great."
This is the first time since 1996 that Australia has qualified a team into the Paralympics. The Australian women were beaten 3-1 by Japan yesterday but Esdaile believes the competition was close.
"This game showed everyone is pretty tight . . . there are a few teams that are maybe a little bit ahead of the pack," she said.