Sitting Update: International reffing, blogging part of Rio prep

By Karen Patterson (Karen.patterson@usav.org) | Aug. 03, 2016, 11:43 a.m. (ET)

sittingCOLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 2, 2016) – As the world turns its attention to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic Games, the U.S. Sitting Volleyball Teams are hard at work in preparation for the Paralympic Games, which begin in Rio on Sept. 7.

For Edgar Laforest (San Juan, Puerto Rico), the road to Rio took a brief turn to the referee stand when Laforest served as one of nine referees at the NORCECA U20 Continental Championship from July 24-31. Laforest began working as an international referee in 2005, one year before he joined the U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team.

“After my car accident I couldn’t play, but I still wanted to be involved with volleyball,” Laforest said. “I started to referee, people encouraged me to keep moving up and I said, ‘Okay, let’s do this.’ I really enjoy it.”

A native of Puerto Rico, Laforest joined the U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team after meeting then Head Coach Bill Hamiter through a friend. He became disabled following a serious car accident in 1988, during which a drunk driver struck Laforest along the side of the road, causing severe and permanent damage to both legs.

Puerto Rico does not currently have its own national sitting volleyball teams, making Laforest and fellow Puerto Rican Hugo Storer eligible to compete on the U.S. National Team.

During the NORCECA U20 Championship, Laforest only refereed one U.S. Women’s Junior National Team match – he said he rarely is assigned U.S. matches due to conflict of interest. Previous tournaments he has refereed include 2013 NORCECA Grand Prix Qualifier in Puerto Rico and the 2012 Women’s PanAm Cup in Mexico.

Swearingen ready for torch relay
On Friday, Aug. 5, Charlie Swearingen (Gulfport, Mississippi) will be a part of the USOC's torch relay ahead of the "Carnival on Tejon," the United States Olympic Committee's celebration running in conjunction with the Opening Ceremony in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. The torch relay from the Olympic Training Center to the celebration downtown is symbolic of the four-month, cross-continental relay the Olympic torch made ahead of the Olympics.

"I was a bit surprised when they asked, but it's an honor to be included and I'm really excited," Swearingen said.

Swearingen will run a .2 mile section of the course along East Boulder Street near North Franklin Street, about three-quarters of a mile west of the Olympic Training Center. Joining all the relay runners are about 20 youth runners; everyone is expected to meet downtown for the cauldron lighting ceremony at 5:45 p.m.

Holloway writes for WSN247
Ever wanted to know how the Paralympics differ from the Olympics? Confused when you see sitting volleyball stand up in between rallies? Or have you really just ever wondered the best way to ask a Paralympic athlete about their disability?

sittingU.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball’s Katie Holloway (Lake Stevens, Washington) hopes to answer these questions and provide additional insights for fans ranging from the hardcore to the first-time viewer during a blog series in partnership with WSN247.com.

“People always ask me questions about the Paralympics and I want to educate my friends, family and all the other fans out there about how we closely resemble our Olympic counterparts,” Holloway said. “I also hope to lighten up people’s perceptions of people with disabilities. As athletes in the Paralympic Games, we typically are very comfortable with our disabilities, so it’s fun for us to joke around about missing arms and legs. I hope other people can laugh along with us.”

The first blog post, “Paralympics for Dummies,” debuted July 20 followed by “A Day in the Athlete Village.” Fans can follow along weekly up until the Paralympics begin Sept. 7, using the hashtag #SittingGoldinRio.

Holloway and her U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball teammates are seeking the program’s first Paralympic gold medal this year. The team won bronze in 2004, and took silver medals in 2008 and 2012, falling to world-ranked No. 1 China both times.

Recognition for Zummo
Women’s Sitting Team libero Bethany Zummo (Dublin, California) recently received a welcome surprise when she was featured in Sports Illustrated’s Olympic/Paralympic preview issue. Inside the issue, Zummo is shown in uniform diving for a ball in a centerfold spread which also features members of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team and Wheelchair Basketball.

Along with U.S. Men’s Olympic Volleyball Head Coach John Speraw and U.S. Women’s Olympic Volleyball Head Coach Karch Kiraly, Zummo also is featured in the magazine’s “Meet Team USA” web feature.

Additionally, Zummo recently was featured in the documentary, “Hopefuls: Gold Within,” co-produced by Dick’s Sporting Goods and Tribeca Studios. The feature showcased five Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls in the Dick’s Contenders Program, sharing their individual and team journeys to the Paralympic Games.

USA Deaf Volleyball Team wins gold
The USA Men's and Women's Deaf Volleyball team recently won gold at the Deaf Volleyball World Championship on July 15, defeating Japan 3-0, and Ukraine 3-0 in the gold medal finals. The U.S. women dominated the individual awards, winning Best Receiver (Abby Jensen), Best Setter (Sarah Tubert), Best Digger (Kelly Kyle) and Best Spiker (Ludmila Mounty-Weinstock). 

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Women's Deaf Team won gold at the Pan American regional volleyball qualifier, automatically qualifying for the 2017 Deaflympics. Kalie Frowick (Best Receiver), Sarah Tubert (Best Setter), Darriyan Thomas (Best Digger), Ludmila Mounty-Weinstock (Best Server) and Abby Jensen (Best Spiker) received individual accolades following the tournament. From the U.S. Men's Deaf Volleyball Team, which won a silver medal, falling to Brazil, Ethan Bell was recognized as the Best Spiker.