“Our aim for beyond Parapans is pretty simple yet not an easy task... gold in Rio.”
The US women’s sitting volleyball team, led by star player Katie Holloway, are hoping for gold at August’s Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games in Canada as they step up their preparations for trying to topple China at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
After winning silver at the last two Paralympics behind China, Holloway is now firmly focused on one thing; winning gold in Rio.
The 28-year-old sees this year’s Parapans as the perfect ‘big arena’ warm-up to help train their less-experienced members and to perfect her own game. She also sees the event as the perfect stepping stone to the 2016 Paralympic Games.
“Our main competition is usually ourselves. But a close second is Brazil,” explained Holloway.
“We always need to play confident and our best no matter who we play, so that’s what we are looking for at Parapans. My personal aim is to just keep working hard on my game to get better for the team.”
The USA team have been busy preparing, evolving and developing as a team since their gold medal match defeats to China at London 2012 and the 2014 World Championships in Poland.
“Our team continues to grow every time we are together. We have been working with a sports psychologist and learning more about who we are individually and as a teammate on the court,” she said.
“The longer I am on this team, the more excited I get to play with these girls and find our strengths. We truly are coming together and our coaching staff have given us the time and resources to do that.”
Sitting volleyball is not the only sport that Holloway excels at. Having played football, softball, basketball and volleyball all her life, she started off her career on a college basketball scholarship, becoming the first female amputee to play NCAA Division I basketball.
Today she plays in a women’s basketball league one night per week and recalls fondly about how she got into sitting volleyball.
“I was playing basketball at Cal State Northridge when our Paralympic National Volleyball team came and trained at my school.
“My athletic trainer asked me to check out one of their practices one day, so I introduced myself to the coach and he invited me to attend a training camp that following March. I flew to Atlanta and tried the sport and immediately loved it, now I’ve been playing for nine years.
“My first competition was the World Championships in Roermond, the Netherlands in June of 2006. Travelling the world for the first time I couldn’t have ended up in a more amazing country and town. The competition was difficult; I had been only playing for three months so I was very frustrated by my play. But getting to know my teammates made everything worth it. I fell in love with the sport and our team.”
Now one of the leading players in the team, Holloway’s feelings of frustration may have resided but her drive and ambition certainly has not slowed. She has a personal ethos that “you have to take every opportunity you can to make yourself better”.
“I have created my own training structure where I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have hired a local coach to work with me and do as much training as I can throughout the week to keep up with the rest of the team. I have a few volleyball practices a week, combined with strength workouts, and play basketball.”
The gruelling schedule has one clear end goal in mind; Rio 2016.
“Our aim for beyond Parapans is pretty simple yet not an easy task... gold in Rio.
“Each time we are together as a team we are working hard at finding our rhythm. We have a very different team and system since London so we need as much time together as possible. Heading into Rio I feel excited. Our team is going to peak at the right moment, I can feel it!”
The Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games will take place between 7-15 August and will feature around 1,600 athletes from 28 countries competing in 15 sports.