A little more than a year ago, volleyball player Stacy Sykora had to learn to walk again. Now, the libero is looking to qualify for her fourth Olympic team.
The competition would be intense for Sykora even if she'd not been in the bus accident. Only twelve players will be chosen to represent the United States at the London Olympic Games, and there is a small chance that the roster could include only one player at Sykora's position.
When you combine the level of competition with the intense injuries endured by Sykora, it's easy to question whether she has what it takes to qualify for the 2012 team. But Sykora believes she has what she needs, even if few others do.
"Some people might say it's a fantasy, a dream, but it's my dream," Sykora told The Orange County Register in May.
Sykora was traveling with teammates to a volleyball games in Sao Paulo, Brazil, when her bus flipped over. She initially appeared to be injury-free. After precautionary exams at the hospital, however, the volleyball player was informed that her brain was bleeding and swelling.
Sykora eventually spent 36 days in hospitals in Brazil and California, where spent three days in a coma and three weeks in the intensive care unit. She doesn't remember anything about the accident, and she doesn't remember much of learning to walk again.
But she does remember the last three times she played in the Olympic Games. Sykora first appeared with Team USA in 2000, and she also was a member of the 2004 team. It wasn't until 2008 that Sykora and the American team brought home a silver medal.
Now, she wants to return for her fourth Olympic Games, and she wants to earn gold. In addition to her silver medal, Sykora has earned several awards at the Olympic Games, including best digger of the 2004 Games. Despite her superior play and many accolades, though, Sykora has never won gold.
That, she says, is both what's missing and what's keeping her going.
"The only thing that kept me going, to be honest with you," Sykora told The Orange County Register in May, "is USA Volleyball and training with the No. 1 team in the world."
Sandra Johnson is former athlete and long-time Olympic fan. While working for the United States Olympic Committee, Johnson had the opportunity to live alongside some of the American volleyball players at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46
- Summer Olympics
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- Stacy Sykora