SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — South Salem High School sophomore Annie Flood is on the school’s JV volleyball team. But she’s also on Team USA’s sitting volleyball team.
“It’s been weird thinking of myself as an able-bodied athlete and a disabled athlet because technically they’re opposite,” Annie told KOIN 6 News. “But I’m one person, like, I’m doing both of them at the same time.”
She was born with fibular hemimelia — that is, she was born with only 3 toes on her right leg.
“When I was 9 months old my parents made the decision with my aunt and uncle to amputate my foot,” she said. “I had my first prosthetic when I was 11 months old and I’ve had one ever since.”
Annie has never been willing to be defined by her disability. Now, she’s embracing all she can do because of it.
“I’ve been so able-bodied minded that I would’ve never thought I’d be in a Paralympic sport and then I got involved and I was, like, I want to do this forever, like, I want to do this for a really long time.”
Once she discovered sitting volleyball, she would not be deterred.
“It’s a completely different sport, like, you play volleyball but the movement is completely different,” she said. “I started ressearching it and studying it and I decided I wanted to be on the team and I decided who I needed to, like, try and beat to be able to make the roster and all this stuff.”
For the past year, Annie’s been commuting to Oklahoma once a month to train and learn the game of sitting volleyball with Team USA. Balancing 2 worlds is something Annie does a lot. She’s a student and she’s training to be a professional athlete.
“I bring my homework every time I go and I do my homework all weekend,” she said. “Basically, we have 45 minutes a day to, like rest. I do my homework.”
She’s a high schooler competing with adults. There’s an able-bodied athlete and a Paralympic hopeful.
“I’m 15 years old, a teenager here but I have to act like I’m 25 there and I have to act and compete with the other girls,” she said.
When she comes back, her Paralympic training pays off.
“When I come home and play standing, I feel like I can run faster than anyone on the court and jump higher because it’s so much easier to move than it is in sitting.”
Annie Flood is hooked on the sport and has Tokyo in her sights.
“I try really hard in sports but I’ve never put so much effort into one thing. But it’s so crazy to me, thinking about it just, even this summer I could go to Peru with the team and, like, play my first real competition and then, like, a year from then I could be going to the Paralympic Games and possibly winning Gold.”