By Geoffrey Herberg
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. --- For a sport where nobody stands, sitting volleyball has certainly taken Katie Holloway places.
Originally from Lake Stevens, Wash., Holloway waits on the cusp of her second Paralympic Games as a member of Team USA Sitting Volleyball. A Gold Medal is squarely in her targets. How she got to this point is a winding path of perseverance and dedication that is truly befitting of the Olympic spirit.
Born without a bone in her right ankle, Holloway lost her foot early in life. That didn't stop her from competing in a variety of sports throughout high school and eventually landed her a basketball scholarship at Cal State Northridge.
During her four-year career at CSUN, Holloway received numerous All-Big West Conference honors and became the only woman to compete with a prosthetic limb in the history of NCAA Division I basketball.
After her basketball career ended in 2008, Holloway switched sports and never looked back.
This will be Holloway's second trip the pinnacle of her sport's competition. In 2008, she helped Team USA bring back the silver medal from Beijing. This time around, Holloway brings a more mature focus and intensity to what she hopes will be a successful tournament.
"I think my whole perspective has really changed in the four years between games," she added. "Today, I am much more familiar with the Paralympics and have friends competing in a host of events. I am really excited to watch them all compete and represent their countries. For our competition, I think I have a more serious mentality and that has made it much easier to focus on what we need to do to be successful."
The year has already been a busy one and that's with London on the horizon. Holloway, who was named the USA Volleyball Sitting Women's Athlete of the Year for 2011, helped Team USA capture first place at the 2012 Volleyball Masters in The Netherlands. For her performance, she was named tournament Most Valuable Player.
She and Team USA also competed in a series of several friendly competitions with squads from China and Ukraine in Shanghai during July. And although the results were not what they were hoping for, Holloway came away determined to build on the experience for the games in Great Britain.
"I think the matches with Ukraine and China helped motivate the team to get ready for London," Holloway said. "It showed us where we need to be for the Olympic Games and served as a very intense training session against tough competition."
While living in Oklahoma as a resident athlete, Holloway earned her Master's Degree in Therapeutic Recreation from Oklahoma State this past May. In addition to her coursework, Holloway also spent extensive time working in Birmingham, Ala., at The Lakeshore Foundation.
One of the nation's top adaptive sports and recreation facilities in the nation, Holloway established a sitting volleyball program at the clinic and has seen her involvement in adaptive sports broaden. She has participated in several training sessions with the US Paralympic Rowing Team and she has also worked in sports such as Murderball (wheelchair rugby), Goalball (a three-man sport for the visually impaired) and wheelchair basketball.
The work at Lakeshore Foundation also led Holloway to working with veterans returning from overseas with adaptive injuries. In helping these young men and women adapt to their new lives, Holloway has shown them all the different sports that are available to them. She believes the sports offer a therapeutic benefit to her peers.
"The Veteran's Administration has been a big proponent of the US Paralympics program over the past few years," Holloway said. "The growth of Paralympics sports in the United States goes hand-in-hand with the efforts of the VA. They are offering these young people the opportunities to create their own stories and future."
At this time, it is uncertain whether any of Team USA's matches will be broadcast on television. Still, fans can find all the details about Team USA Sitting Volleyball at USParalympics.org and USAVolleyball.org.
Forty or so days until the games start and Holloway is nervous, anxious and all the other ways people go about describing their nerves. She has played in front of the throngs of Times Square. She has appeared on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, working with a young girl who lost her left leg and a kidney while saving her little sister. She has the experience of competing in the Olympics.
And yet, Holloway isn't quite sure what's in store for her on the trip to Europe. Or beyond.
Just goes to show the places you can go.