Volleyball medalist hopes late mother’s memory will propel her to success in Tokyo


CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The road to an Olympic medal is never an easy one and it’s rarely paved in gold, silver or bronze. But one American volleyball player is using a personal tragedy to hopefully propel her path to a third-straight summer games medal.

April Ross has been a medalist in the last two games. A bronze in Rio in 2016 and a silver in London four years later.

“The waiting has felt long. Yeah, a five-year quad is kind of brutal,” said Ross. “But the fact that we didn’t have to train super hard the whole time…we had a little bit of a break. It helped us kind of refresh mentally, physically get healthy, and we’re ramping up right now. You know, full steam ahead. And at this point, we feel on track and feel pretty ready.”  

The track to these games has been a bumpy ride with a pandemic, a delay, and a vaccine to keep athletes safe as they compete for their country.  

“You know, I trust the USOPC [United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee] and their preparations. Everyone I know is trying to get vaccinated to keep the population over there as safe as possible — the village as safe as possible,” said Ross. “It seems like it’s going to be a pretty tight bubble testing every day beforehand. So I do feel like all the precautions possible are being taken. So I’m pretty confident in that.”

The Tokyo organizing committee is not allowing international fans in the stands, but that won’t stop the memory of Ross’ mother, who died from breast cancer when April was 19 years old. 

“My mom has always been a huge inspiration for me on the court,” said Ross. “And it has to do with her battle with metastatic breast cancer and how much courage and determination she showed while she was living with it. And so, when I’m out on the court, I really try to channel that courage and bravery and strength.” 

With the Tokyo games around the corner, April Ross is partnering with drug company Eli Lilly in hopes of promoting awareness all the way to the podium.

“We’re offered this huge platform with the Olympics and it’s great, but it’s a huge opportunity to use it for good as well as for yourself,” said Ross. “You know, it’s fun to share with everybody what you’re doing — going to the Olympics going for gold, but the older I get, the longer I play the sport, the more I want to use my platform to help other people and drive awareness about important issues — like metastatic breast cancer for me, going into Tokyo.”

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