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Bethany Zummo Reflects On Sitting Volleyball And Thanks All Those Who’ve Helped Her Push To Tokyo 2020

By Bethany Zummo | July 12, 2021, 10 a.m. (ET)

Bethany Zummo competing at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 28, 2019 in Lima, Peru.


To my support system, my foundation, my world:

Behind every athlete is a team, a community of people to support them physically, mentally and emotionally. I am so lucky to have such a vast community to support my Paralympic journey. If I were to write to everyone who supported me, I’d be writing forever.

To each of those people, thank you from the bottom of my heart. To my parents, my husband and my team, you’ve played such a special part in my journey, and I hope this can begin to express my gratitude.

To my parents:

From the first volleyball tryout to every weekend tournament, you were there. When I was afraid to start adaptive sport, you waited and helped me build confidence until I was ready. You let me nail my prosthetic foot to hardwood flooring, because you knew it would make me laugh. We didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a huge turning point for me to feel like I could joke about my leg and embrace who I am. I am so grateful that you raised me to know that I can do anything I set my mind to doing, and that I don’t look at my body as a disability.

Without you, I would never have begun a Paralympic journey. Because of your love, I can take my leg off, move proudly onto a court, and confidently play sitting volleyball without it. Even now, while I’m away training for my second Games, I still feel your encouragement.

I hope you know how much I appreciate you, even when I’m halfway across the country, too exhausted from training to call. Your guidance gave me independence, you gave me confidence. Thank you for giving me every opportunity to succeed and allowing me the space to fail and grow into the person I am today.

To my husband:
Since 2013, you’ve been a part of my Paralympic journey and experience. Watching and supporting each other from the stands, we’ve seen each other grow as athletes and as individuals. I still remember 2014, watching in awe of you playing at worlds, still blushing because prior to the game you changed your shirt in front of me and my whole team laughed. 

When you ask me, “o que eu posso oferecer a ela,” here is my reply. You offer me the craziest adventure of my life. Every mistake, every success, every frustration, every moment of joy, you are the person I want to share it with. There are not many people who understand this journey; I am so thankful that you do. You remind me to have gratitude for everything available to me and to stay motivated when I don’t believe in myself. Thank you for giving me the space to love every part of me. Your unconditional love, all the way from Brazil, has meant the world to me.

To my team:

When I was first introduced to sitting volleyball, I wanted nothing to do with it. My mom begged me to sit down and play, but I cried and wouldn’t try it. I was afraid of people seeing me without my leg on, because at the time it made me vulnerable. Now 15 years later, I play with some of that same team I was introduced to, and they often remind me of “that time I met them and cried.”

We laugh about it now, because we all went through our own journey of accepting ourselves, and now we can be strong together. Being with this team for 10+ years, we’re not just a team, we’re a family. I have annoying aunts and ridiculous siblings, my oldest friends and a work wife named Bianca. Every up and down, high and low, we hit those together. 

The journey to the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 has been different for us than the past. Not only are we defending our first gold medal, training with targets on our backs, but the COVID-19 pandemic hit and it hit us hard. This quad made volleyball more of a mental game than it had ever been before and made many of us question our why. But this quad also allowed us to appreciate the time we have on the court and the time we have with each other. Though this may be the hardest quad of our lives, I wouldn’t ask to do it with any other team.

You all have seen me in my darkest days and shined with me on my brightest. Your support and encouragement is unmatched. Every time I succeed, it’s not just my victory, it's ours. Thank you for the unconditional love you’ve always shown me. Going into Tokyo, I know you'll be behind me, pushing me to be my best.

To think, this has been a lifetime in the making, and we’re only getting started.

With love,

Bethany Zummo


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Bethany Zummo

Sitting Volleyball