My Journey As A Parasport Athlete – Katelyn Wright
I was never a “normal” kid.
I was born with a rare vascular and lymph condition called Klippel Trenaunay Syndrome in my right leg. Meaning there was poor circulation in my leg causing it to became very swollen. – Katelyn Wright Team Canada Women’s Sitting Volleyball Rio 2016 Paralympian
Growing up I curled in the Winter, golfed in the Summer, and took horseback riding lessons all year round. Yet sports were tough for me because of how large and sensitive my leg was. Overall, I couldn’t run very well. The equipment for the more mainstream sports wouldn’t fit my leg and trying to get custom equipment made was virtually impossible.
When I was 12 my leg was infected with a Strep G Necrotizing Fasciitis that began attacking my immune system. It was severe, I went into septic shock and almost died. After multiple debridements and skin grafts couldn’t keep the infection at bay, the doctors told me my leg wasn’t going to get better.
So in March 2003 at the age of 13, I had my leg amputated above the knee. This was an exciting opportunity for me; having my leg amputated was going to allow me to be more active and participate in sports that I hadn’t been able to do or even try before. In spite of all the excitement, this moment was also terrifying because even though my leg wasn’t healthy, it was all I had known up until that point in my life. It was my normal.
Unfortunately, I still had problems with infections after my amputation and my leg was still very sensitive. Again, sports weren’t a realistic option for me, and that was tough, mainly because my family was very active. However, I continued to horseback ride, golf, and I curled standing up, using a stick.
The Start of A New Journey
In January of 2014, I had a surgical revision to remove a few more centimeters of bone after it was discovered that I had a bone infection. During my recovery, I received an email from a friend that I had re-connected with at a Sit Skiing clinic the previous winter asking me if I wanted to come and try Sitting Volleyball. I was nervous, I had only every played Volleyball in gym class (when I was healthy enough to participate), but I knew I was being given an opportunity to better myself. An opportunity to act on a chance to play a new sport. It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me because it was my official introduction into the world of parasport.
My journey through parasport has been something that has challenged me physically and mentally. It has pushed me to better myself as an athlete but also as a human being.
When I started Sitting Volleyball, I was at the lowest level you could possibly begin at. I didn’t know the court positions, couldn’t serve a ball over the net, and my platform left a lot to be desired. That was not going to stop me. I had the drive to learn, the determination to get better, and the vulnerability to allow myself to fail so I could grow.
I’m the strongest I’ve ever been, and I’ve become much more in tune with my body since becoming coming active in sitting volleyball.
Parasport has taught me a few things
- Helped me become more aware of where my strength’s and weaknesses.
- That I’ve allowed my body to overcompensate for the loss of my leg.
- How to work out effectively and efficiently to re-train my body to use my residual limb effectively.
- How to fuel my body for performance.
On the court I’m always learning, I know that is something that will never stop. Sometimes, I finally think I’m getting the hang of something, and then my coach challenges me to add another element. Making me feel like I’m right back at square one. It’s frustrating, but it’s also an aspect of the sport that I love. That constant push to be better than I was yesterday.
It’s Gratifying To Be A Para-Athlete
Personally, I think one of the greatest aspects of parasport is the inclusion and the community that comes with it. Many able-bodied sports are just not possible for people with physical limitations, but any able-bodied person is able to try parasport. Para-athletes love having the opportunity to share their sport.
It’s gratifying to be able to showcase how hard we work as athletes, to be able to educate athletes of all ages, able-bodied and adapted, that sport is possible for all people, regardless of physical limitations, and to inspire the next generation of para-athletes.
Then there are my teammates that have become my second family. It is refreshing to be with a group of people that understand you in ways most people can’t. That you can show your entire being to without being judged, or without having to explain yourself. We push each other every day to be the best versions of ourselves. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel across the globe to compete and represent Canada on the world stage as a member of Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team, the highlight being the Rio 2016 Paralympics. I’ve met so many amazing athletes that have accomplished so much, and it’s truly humbling to see athletes with physical barriers far greater than mine doing what they love.
There Will Always Be Challenges
If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my life, is that we are all going to be faced with challenges. No matter if it is in everyday life or just in sport. We can’t always control the challenges themselves, but we can choose how we choose to handle them. Personally, I strive to face my challenges head-on. To look for the positives in them to see how I can learn and grow from them.
There have been many times where I’ve made the easy choice, the comfortable choice because I was scared. But you know what, four years ago I was scared to try Sitting Volleyball. I had become so comfortable in believing that my leg would never allow me to do anything beyond what I already knew. Although I wanted to believe it; I wasn’t sure if the bone revision was going to change it.
Four years ago, I made a choice to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I recognized that I was being given an opportunity I had never been given before and I couldn’t ignore it. Four years ago, I joined Team Canada Women’s Sitting Volleyball, and I haven’t looked back since.