Brazil’s Luiza Guisso Fiorese originally set her sights on becoming a sports journalist at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. But things turned out better for her in the Japanese capital, as she won a bronze medal in the women’s sitting volleyball event.
Fiorese made her World Championships debut in Sarajevo, and helped Brazil win gold in the women’s competition on Friday, 11 November. Brazil defeated Canada 3-2 in the gold medal match.
A new story
At age 15, Fiorese was diagnosed with bone cancer in her left thigh bone and underwent surgery, replacing the femur with an endoprosthesis.
After her illness, Fiorese studied journalism as a way to stay involved in sports, but appearing in a TV talk show proved to be a life-changing moment.
Sitting volleyball player Gizele Da Costa watched the programme, listening to Fiorese talk about her impairment and her recovery from cancer. Da Costa then reached out to the teenager and invited her to try the sport.
“My sitting volleyball story started through the media. I was discovered by Gizele when I was on a TV show. She saw me and said, ‘This girl could sit with us',” Fiorese said.
“I wanted to be a sports journalist in the beginning. I was an athlete before, and when I got my endoprosthesis, I did not realise that I could still play.
“I decided to study journalism so I could still be near sports. When I tried it (sitting volleyball), I had an opportunity to know the sport better and I just fell in love with it.”
Paralympic and World Championships debuts
Fiorese completed her degree in journalism on the same day the team left for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. A couple of days later, she won her first Paralympic medal.
Competing in her first World Championships in Sarajevo this month, Fiorese said the tournament was “very different” compared to the Paralympic Games because athletes feel more relaxed and “like friends and family.”
“Here it’s like we all share the same love for sitting volleyball. It’s all about the sport,” she said. “It’s nice to have this experience here and all share our love for the discipline.”
Commenting on the atmosphere at the Worlds, Fiorese expressed her hope that a major tournament will be held in Brazil in the future.
“This is a huge event and Sarajevo is a wonderful place. We have a great atmosphere here. We could use this experience to improve our sitting volleyball and hopefully we could bring this event to Brazil,” she said.
Fiorese's journalism background has helped her reach out to a wide audience through social media and she has even bigger goals for her future.
“Being an athlete has always been my dream and having a background in journalism allowed me to have a platform to empower other women,” Fiorese said.
“In the future I want to practise both, but at this time, my focus is on being an athlete, but I still try to use social media to bring some awareness about disability and sport from an athlete’s perspective.”