Brazil’s Luiza Guisso Fiorese originally set her sights on becoming a sport journalist at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, but things turned out better for her as that experience in the Japanese capital rewarded her and her teammates a bronze medal.
At age 15, Luiza was diagnosed with bone cancer in her left thigh bone and underwent surgery, replacing the femur with an endoprosthesis.
After her illness, she decided to study journalism as a way of staying involved in sport, but a serendipitous moment happened when her future teammate Gizele Da Costa saw her appearance on a television talk show when she was talking about her impairment and recovery from cancer.
Gizele reached out to her and invited her to try the sport and the rest was history.
“My sitting volleyball story started through media. I was discovered by Gizele while I was on a TV show. She saw me and said ‘This girl could sit with us.’,” Luiza said.
“I wanted to be a sport journalist in the beginning. I was an athlete before and when I got my endoprosthesis I did not realise that I could still play, then I decided to study journalism so I could still be near sports. When I tried it, I had an opportunity to know the sport better and I just fell in love with it.
“Being an athlete has always been my dream and having a background in journalism allowed me to have a platform to empower other women. In the future I want to practise both, but at this time my focus is on being an athlete, but I still try to use social media to bring some awareness about disability and sport from an athlete’s perspective.”
Luiza completed her degree in journalism on the same day they were leaving for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan and a couple of days later, she won her first Paralympic bronze medal.
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The 2022 World ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball World Championships is also Luiza’s first opportunity to play for a world title but she feels the experience in Sarajevo is more special compared to her Tokyo experience.
“It’s my first World Championship but it’s very different from the Paralympics. Here it’s like we all share the same love for sitting volleyball. It’s all about the sport. As an example, in the Paralympics everyone’s attention was with Iran’s Morteza (Mehrzad) and we did not get to have a lot of interaction with the other athletes,” Luiza explained.
“Here in Sarajevo, he is more relaxed, and he is not just tallest guy. In fact, all of us feel more relaxed here. Morteza and all of us in this tournament feel like we are friends and family. So it’s nice to have this experience here and all share our love for the discipline.
Luiza commended the great atmosphere of the World Championships in Sarajevo and she wished that they could do something as big as this event in their country in the future.
“This is a huge event and Sarajevo is a wonderful place. We have a great atmosphere here. We could use this experience to improve our sitting volleyball and hopefully we could bring this event to Brazil,” she said.
Coming from a country where sport and volleyball bring people together, Luiza believes that the influence of able-bodied volleyball players has helped raise the status of sitting volleyball in their country.
“I had the opportunity to meet some of the players in the men’s team. And some of the players in the women’s team like Carol Gattaz and Roberta Ratzke who are incredible players, we follow each other on social media. Fofao (Helia Souza) played with the sitting volleyball team before Rio 2016 and it was very nice of her because we needed a boost like this in our sport. Volleyball is a huge sport in Brazil and with this kind of support from them, fans will also take notice of sitting volleyball and will help us grow our own sport in the country.”