Jennifer Oakes shares her views on Canada’s rise in women’s sitting volleyball.
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 9 November 2022 – “We used to be the underdog and now we are a top competitor,” Canada setter Jennifer Oakes said, after steering her team a final four appearance in the 2022 World ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball World Championships.
Canada made it to the medal rounds of the World Championship for the first time, following their defeat of Italy 3-1 (24-26, 25-22, 25-17, 25-14) on Wednesday.
“Italy are tough opponents to play, and we knew that we were going to fight hard and battle through every point. We had to limit our errors and just keep pushing through the whole game and just stay really engaged,” the 24-year-old said.
“We prepped for our games all the exact same way. Our team has a solid regimen when we are getting ready for games. We always get ready and just get pumped for the game.”
Oakes has seen the growth of her team in the last few years from making it to the Paralympic Games for the first time in Rio de Janeiro and finishing fourth at Tokyo 2020.
“I’ve been on the team for about seven years now and the growth that we’ve had over the past seven years has been insane. We’ve been working hard, and our coaching staff has been pushing us so hard. We just keep growing and we keep seeing huge changes and we are so excited to be performing at such a high level,” she explained.
“We want to be fighting for gold medals, like we want to be on the podium. Rio wasn’t enough for us and (in Tokyo) we came away a little bit disappointed, but we are just hungry for more, so I am really excited to be to be going into the semifinal (of the World Championship).”
Oakes also described the excellent dynamics of having female members on the bench of the Canadian team and also commended the efforts for providing them the best support to compete at the highest level.
“Nicole (Ban) is the best coach here,” Oakes exclaimed.
“I’ve never been coached by anyone else but she’s just so influential. We have a lot of female staff members, and they all work hard and push us to be our absolute best. They show up to everything, they push us to be there, and they just keep supporting us.”
Their recent successes could also be attributed to the programme’s recent efforts in growing the sport in their country through the recruitment of younger athletes.
“Sitting volleyball in Canada is a growing sport and we are pushing hard to grow it and Para Sports in general. It’s been growing quickly recently because we’ve been getting new athletes. We are growing a roster and just getting more depth in our team.
“We have a lot of younger athletes interested in playing. This is huge for the younger generation of Para athletes to have sitting volleyball or other Para sports to turn to. We are just happy to be advocating for sitting volleyball.”