Sept. 24, 2008
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Her nightstand. That's where Katie Holloway's silver medal from the 2008 U.S. Paralympic Sitting Volleyball Team is probably resting at this moment. It's not that Holloway, one of the Paralympics' top performers, is upset about her new jewelry. It is that she wants to always be near it to remind her that the next one that joins it is a gold.
"Winning a medal hasn't really set in," said Holloway. "Seeing it and holding it brings a great sense of accomplishment. It shows that all the hard work and dedication I put in this summer and in the past few years has really paid off."
Born without a bone in her right leg, Holloway, a four-year letterwinner for the Cal State Northridge women's basketball team who graduated in 2008, was spurred to check out the sport by Northridge women's volleyball coach and former Olympian Jeff Stork. She quickly found herself as one of the Americans' top performers, leading the team in scoring in three of its five matches in Beijing.
"Hearing the `USA' chants during our matches was pretty inspiring," said Holloway. "At first our nerves were strong, but we rebounded and winning the silver was an awesome finale."
In one of the tournament's biggest upsets, the Americans defeated the world's top ranked squad from the Netherlands in a five-game, two-hour match. Holloway led the Americans with 23 points in the match on 84 attempts, a hitting percentage of .274.
Still, it was the trip halfway around the world to compete in athletics in its grandest stage that Holloway will always remember.
"The experience was just awesome," said Holloway. "From the second we stepped off the plane, we were surrounded by smiling, friendly volunteers. They were all overwhelmed to see us and just happy for us to be there."
Surrounded by the world's best, Holloway soaked up the experience of meeting people like her, excelling in sport and life despite disability. In addition to spending time with the U.S. delegation, she also befriended the Australian wheelchair basketball team and a group of blind track athletes.
"It was exciting to be in the cafeteria because it was always full of athletes in all shapes and forms," added Holloway. "I was very inspired to see all these people with disabilities doing something amazing with their lives."
A native of Lake Stevens, Wash., Holloway stayed in constant contact with her family and friends back in the states, many of whom she met in her time at Cal State Northridge.
"All the support I received at CSUN got me to where I am today," added Holloway. "If I had never gone to Northridge, I would not be a silver medalist. Just to know that people stayed up until the middle of the night to watch our gold medal match is an incredible feeling."
Of her many memories, Holloway points to a post-practice bus ride before the gold medal match with the host nation, China, as her favorite. While riding back to their hotel, Holloway and her teammates saw a public bus riding next to them with the eyes of the riders glued to a television. On the screen, the team's thrilling five-set victory over the Netherlands.
"It might just be one of the coolest things I have ever seen," added Holloway. "We all started screaming and pointing at the bus and the people just looked back at us like we were crazy. I never thought I'd see myself on TV on a bus."
The team also took time to tour the many attractions Beijing has to offer.
"We went to the Great Wall and the Forbidden City and every cab ride was an adventure," stated Holloway. "Climbing the Great Wall is an experience I will never forget."
With her return to the states comes her return to training. She has moved to the team's official site in Oklahoma with hopes of representing her country again in London in 2012. Only when she returns next time, she wants the medal she brings back for her family and friends to be of a slightly different shade.
"Being able to travel the world and represent my country is an experience I will never forget," concluded Holloway. "Now I am hungry to get back into training so that the next medal we win is a gold."