The 2020 Paralympic Games get underway Tuesday, and Canada’s women’s sitting volleyball team has hopes of making it big.
The women’s sitting volleyball team has a number of athletes and coaches from Edmonton and surrounding communities, including Heidi Peters of Neerlandia, Alta., who is participating in her second Paralympics.
“I’m just so proud of all the work we’ve done. We’ve earned the ability to be that confident in ourselves, and we’re just pushing ourselves every single day to be better,” Peters said.
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At the age of 16, Peters developed bone cancer. The disease forced the amputation of her left leg below the knee.
Growing up playing volleyball, she was determined to stay involved in the sport. Peters was introduced to sitting volleyball and soon joined the national team. She’s been a member for eight years, and the experience has been life-changing.
“For me, it was just a sense of family and security and you get to do life with women who have gone through similar things as you. There are girls on the team who’ve had cancer and amputations and similar as me,” she said.
Assistant coaches Chelsea Hobbs and Kate Rozendaal have helped Peters and her teammates get to Tokyo. The two University of Alberta doctoral students said the athletes have done more for them than the other way around.
“I really love the relationship-building piece and I really love seeing athletes succeed. When you’ve been working on a goal for a really long time and then they’re able to put that into practice,” Hobbs said.
“It’s really rewarding seeing the hard work the girls have given into practices paying off on the court,” Rozendaal said.
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The team finished seventh at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. In Tokyo, they have their sights set on bringing home some hardware.
“We have that expectation of ourselves, so we definitely feel the pressure and it’s exciting,” Peters said.
The team will begin their journey towards a podium finish Aug. 27 against Brazil.