Even when she returned home to Italy, Sara Cirelli, still has that high adrenaline and emotions from the Italian women’s sitting volleyball team’s title victory at the Golden Nations League in Slovenia.
“We are very happy. We won the first important competition of the season. We hadn’t played matches since the Women’s World Championship in November,” said the hitter and Dream Volley Pisa player on the phone interview.
“It was a crescendo of good plays. At the beginning we were a little tense, we felt the excitement and tension of returning to the field in the blue shirt after so many months. We gained more confidence in each game and maintained a high level of play. We made it clear that we are among the strongest teams in Europe. We started as the favourites and we did not disappoint expectations.”
At the age of 19, a knee problem caused by a tragic scooter accident that stopped her competitive career in volleyball, but soon found solace in sitting volleyball. Now 32, Cirelli who is also a biomedical engineer by profession, continues to compete in the sport at the highest level.
“My teammate and great friend Julia Bellandi and I tried this discipline in 2015 and we haven’t stopped since. I’ve been playing for the national team since 2016,” she recalled.
In Italy, able-bodied and disabled athletes practise sitting volleyball together.
“Everyone who has tried it have not left the sport. Everyone likes it – disabled or able-bodied. Even many athletes have decided to leave volleyball to devote themselves to this sport.”
Many disabilities can fall within the classification criteria of sitting volleyball. There are those who have lost a leg due to a tumor, those who were born without a hand, those who had birth problems, those with multiple sclerosis, those like Cirelli who had an accident.
“All those people who turned to this sport especially after a disability, experienced a rebirth. When we play, we do not think about the problems we have off the court. It’s exciting to share everything and build strength on each other. During championships and competitions, it’s nice to meet many people with different stories – stories that are more difficult that your own – and see how they faced life’s problems.”
The victory at the Golden Nations League was a good test for the national team to restart, in anticipation of the European Championships, which will take place in Caorle, Italy from October 9 to 15. Their goal is qualification to the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.
“We have many responsibilities to prepare ourselves in the best possible way, including overseas training in Brazil in July. An enormous motivation for all of us was having experienced the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Seeing many people with severe disabilities, alone and far from home, but fighting for the medal in their own sporting discipline,” Cirelli explained.
“Sport offers a parallel life made up of joys and many hardships, but it gives an improvement in the quality of life to every athlete, especially disabled people who are in team sport, where we always have to help each other, creating a very strong union.”
Source: Italy24 News