‘Volleyball A Ray of Light In My Darkest Days’

Team Canada women’s sitting volleyball rep Felicia Voss has challenged players at the 2017 Nadi Airport International Volleyball tournament to aim higher. The Fijian born athlete said Fijians can do
10 Sep 2017 11:00
‘Volleyball A Ray of Light In My Darkest Days’
Minister for Health and Medical Services Rosy Akbar, FNU Vice Chancellor Eci Nabalarua and guest Felicia Voss at the official opening at the FNU Namaka campus in Nadi on Friday night. Photo: WAISEA NASOKIA

Team Canada women’s sitting volleyball rep Felicia Voss has challenged players at the 2017 Nadi Airport International Volleyball tournament to aim higher.

The Fijian born athlete said Fijians can do wonders after the Vodafone Fijian 7s team won the  gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics Games.

She made the comment at the opening ceremony at the Fiji National University (FNU) Namaka Campus on Friday night telling the players to realise their dreams.

“Our rugby 7s team and our many other Fijian athletes have proved themselves,” she said.

“It’s that Fijians are absolutely gifted and resilient and there is no reason why we can’t have a volleyball team in the Olympics or even in the Paralympics.”

She said the sport had a positive impact on her life, not just physically but on her mental and emotional well-being.

“Volleyball was a ray of light in my darkest days. It has helped me rebuild my life when I was at my lowest, restore not only my confidence but given me focus and a purpose. You’re never too old to learn a sport whether you are able-bodied or differently-abled. At the very least, it can help you become more active and healthy. And by keeping a positive attitude and working hard, at best, it could change your life in more ways than you can imagine, as it did mine.

“Sport and volleyball specifically has incredible power. I could have never imagined the positive impact it would have on my life the day I decided to try it. But after a life altering event, the biggest impact that volleyball has had on my life is that it has helped me embrace my new reality.”

She loved volleyball and started playing late in life, in Vancouver, as part of a company sponsored sport. She was encouraged by friends to play due to her height.

“I started meeting a lot of people, and making really good friends. I also started getting in shape as a consequence of playing. Life was good. Life however, had other plans for me.”

On a cold February morning in 2011 she woke up with the chills, thought it was flu but it wasn’t until 11pm that night and was rushed to the hospital and was immediately put on life support. It was caused by the pneumococcal pneumonia that led to such an acute onset of septic shock, but after two weeks in a coma, she miraculously woke up.

“The illness left me with nerve damage in my right arm, necrosis in my fingertips due to which I lost a few finger tips, this one I’m particularly upset about as no one takes it seriously anymore and necrosis in my feet due to which both of my legs had to be amputated.

“And the wonderful thing is that there is no focus on disability, only a focus on ability. Only a focus on what you can do with what you have and how hard you’re willing to work to achieve something.”

In 2015, she was invited to join Team Canada Women’s Sitting Volleyball. That same year they competed in the Para Pan American games in Toronto.

“It was during a match against Brazil something in me changed. We were a relatively new team, and there was no way we were going to beat Brazil. But during the last set, we put up such a fight, that we almost won the set.

“It was at that moment, that I literally felt confidence flow into me. It’s as if someone turned on the lights and everything seemed brighter. I felt stronger, and more determined than I had in a very long time.

“We went on to play Cuba, beating them to win the  bronze medal, which qualified us for the Paralympics.

“While I am very proud of these achievements, most of it would not have been possible without the love and support of my family and friends, my medical team, my company, and my sitting volleyball team. Sitting Volleyball has given me many things.

“It has enabled me to stay active and healthy. It has given me confidence, strength, joy, a renewed purpose, and an amazing team. It has allowed me to see more of the world, to challenge myself to become better and most importantly to give back to the community by teaching the sport to kids who are differently-abled. And as of September of last year, we had the opportunity to participate in our first Paralympics, and I am now a proud Paralympian.”

She thanked the committee for inviting her to the 2017 volleyball tournament and Fiji Airways for flying her home.

Minister for Health and Medical Services Rosy Akbar thanked the committee and the corporate sponsors for their ongoing support towards the charity.

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