The Olympic games are set to end August 8, but the Paralympics begin later this month, featuring around 4,400 athletes with a range of disabilities.
One local paralympian who is taking her shot at the gold this year is Jillian Williams from Odem, Texas. She graduated from Sinton high school in 2015 and went on to play volleyball at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin. It was in 2016 she found out she had bone cancer, a diagnosis she thought would end her athletic career, until she found a new sport that's just as challenging but familiar at heart.
“Sitting volleyball is essentially like standing, except you’re sitting on the ground and we don’t use wheelchairs,” said Jillian Williams, USA Paralympic sitting volleyball player.
Sitting volleyball is a sport specifically for athletes with physical disabilities. Williams said most of her teammates don’t have a limb; either a leg, an arm or a birth defect.
“Me, I’m an amputee, I had bone cancer in 2016 and had my leg amputated, and I was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, which is a rare pediatric bone cancer. Its technically a soft tissue sarcoma, but it does present soften bones quite often so mine was in my left distal femur,” said Williams.
Williams said she thought she would never play volleyball again but wanted to stay active. It wasn’t until she was at a skeet shooting tournament that someone had mentioned sitting volleyball, and since 2017, Williams fell in love with the sport.
"It’s kind of an inspiration. She’s always been the better of the athlete out of the two of us,” said her older brother Trent Williams.
What is the difference between sitting volleyball and standing?
Williams said, “The court is smaller, the net is a lot lower, you are sitting on the ground. Other than that, all of the rules are pretty much the same, you can block a serve. And then one butt cheek or from your bottom to your torso has to be in contact with the ground when you are contacting the ball.”
Williams said she is proud and excited to represent the Coastal Bend, Texas, and the U.S. on one of sport’s biggest stages.
Her older brother Trent Williams said, “Win or lose we are behind her and we are just proud of you know what she’s done in the four short years now.”
“I think for me its also a humbling experience because volleyball has been taken away from me and so, it reminds me that O need to be even more grateful for the opportunity that I have now because at one point it wasn’t here,” said Williams.
The paralympics are also hosted in Tokyo and begin August 24. You can watch Jillian Williams and her team on August 27.