Former figure skater Marybai Huking is headed to her second straight Paralympic Games for goalball. This 2016 Paralympic bronze medalist was adopted from China at a young age and enjoys creating artwork and spending time outdoors. Find out more about this Paralympian from Salt Lake City in this Q&A:
Q: How did you initially get involved in goalball?
A: I was introduced to the sport in sixth grade. I actually wasn’t very drawn to the game itself but was excited to meet so many role models in the older girls with visual impairments that I got to play with. I also immediately loved the team atmosphere and realize how much more fun it was to play on a team than as an individual athlete. As I got more involved with tournaments and was able to play the sport competitively, I realized how much fun the sport was and loved the challenge that being completely blindfolded posed.
The Utah Foundation for the Blind was the organization that got me started with goalball and is a large part of the reason that I have been able to find success in the sport. I was given so many opportunities to compete, to train, to coach, and was always supported as I took steps toward the national team. I learned so much from my time with that organization and still do everything I can to give back through volunteering at sports camps and coaching regionally.
Q: What’s your athletic background?
A: I initially started off with competitive figure skating before switching over to goalball. During my time playing goalball, I also ran cross country with my high school and did CrossFit for several years.
Q: Can you tell us about your time as a figure skater?
A: When I was growing up, one of my favorite sports to watch during the Olympics was figure skating. I thought the sport was beautiful and started taking lessons when I was in elementary school. I loved the sport and worked with private coaches as I got older and started competing. I still enjoy ice skating for fun, but can only do a handful of the moves I used to.
Q: What did it mean to you to represent the U.S. at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games?
A: It was such an incredible experience representing Team USA in 2016. It was a huge goal of mine being realized, and the culmination of so much hard work leading up to the Games. I have always had so much respect for the girls that I now get to call my teammates, and it was an honor to be able to play alongside them.
Q: Do you have a favorite goalball memory?
A: One of my favorite memories was following the 2019 Para Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. Our team went out to a huge lunch and had incredible food. I know it is surprising that one of my favorite memories wasn’t actually playing goalball, but I think it highlights how important the community within the sport is to me. There is so much peace that comes following a tournament, and getting to share a meal with the people you just experienced it with.
Q: Can you tell us about your family and your adoption from China?
A: I was adopted from China when I was 2 years old. In China, not a lot is known about albinism, and people with disabilities are often not fully accepted into society. That’s likely the reason why I was put up for adoption. I am now part of an amazing family, and I am one of five children who were all adopted from different parts of China. I am the second oldest, the only girl, and my single mom, Claire, adopted us all on her own.
Q: Outside of goalball training, what have you been up to since graduating from the University of Utah in 2019?
A: After graduating, I moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to train full-time for the Games. Our training schedule keeps me busy, but I like to spend my free time pursuing my other passion, art. I am a painter and also work with charcoal and pen. I am always experimenting with new mediums and a lot of the work that I do is commissioned. I also love anything that has to do with the outdoors, so I’ve spent a lot of time hiking, camping, snowboarding, biking, and rock climbing.
Q: You have a degree in psychology. What do you see yourself doing for a career?
A: There are so many things I love to do and so many things I want to try. I am honestly not sure what direction I want my life to go in, and I love that I am at a phase in my life where I get to find out.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to share that our audience may not know, like favorite food, quirky talents, etc.?
A: Some things not everyone knows about me are that I love to sing, I can wiggle my ears, I’m an avid reader, and I despise mushrooms.