For American Lora Webster, the volleyball phrase “bump, set, spike” has a distinct ring to it. She’s a seated volleyball player competing in the Tokyo Paralympics, and the term “bump” means something altogether different to her.
She’s five months pregnant with her fourth child.
“I don’t really remember half the time I’m pregnant when I’m playing, except for the rare kick I receive when I’m on the court,” said Webster, 35, who lost her lower left leg to bone cancer when she was 11 years old.
“I just need to be more aware of how I’m diving,” she explained in an interview. “When I dive, I have to keep in mind that I’m not diving straight on my stomach.”
Pregnancy. Paralympics. They complement each other for Lora Webster. She’s aiming for her fifth medal plus a handful of merit asterisks in her fifth Paralympics.
She is pregnant for the second time at the Paralympics, and the third time during a competition. She and her American colleagues face Brazil in the semifinals on Friday, with a possible gold-medal game on the final day of the Games on Sunday.
“As long as you have a healthy pregnancy,” she says, “it’s not harmful.” “However, it just seems odd to be that far along and competing.”
Lora Webster earned gold in Rio de Janeiro five years ago, joining silver medals in London and Beijing, as well as a bronze medal in her maiden Games in Athens in 2004.
“My body has been involved in volleyball for the past 18 years. The motion is normal “According to Webster. “Because my body has been trained in it, it is able to balance both the pregnancy and the competition fairly effectively.”
The majority of the regulations for sitting volleyball are the same as those for standing volleyball. The court is smaller – 10 meters x 6 meters — and the net for women is set at 1.05 meters.
Impairments to the lower or upper limbs, or both, are possible.
Lora Webster said she received a college scholarship after playing standing volleyball in high school while wearing her prosthetic. Instead, she began concentrating on the sitting game in 2003.
She trains primarily at home with her three children — Madi, 10, Cole, 8, and Kyle, 6 — and her husband, Paul.
Webster had “rotation plasty” surgery, which entails removing the central part of the leg and moving up the ankle joint — but twisting it 180 degrees — to replace the knee. After that, the ankle flexes in the same direction as the knee, and the foot fits into the prosthetic leg.
The Disability Stigma
Lora Webster went on to say that Paralympians are more than just athletes, but also messengers of what is possible.
“Once you’re an athlete, you’ll always find a way to stay an athlete — prosthesis or not,” she remarked.
She recounted meeting a woman at the beach who hadn’t worn shorts in 35 years because she was embarrassed by showing her amputation and inviting stares.
“The stigma of disability weighs far more than the real handicap that many of us bear,” she remarked.
“Just because you have a disability does not mean that you can’t achieve your ambitions,” she continued. “A disabled person’s goals can be the same as those of an able-bodied one. The only difference is how we get there. Our constraints are largely imposed on us by others, rather than ones we impose on ourselves.”
Lora Webster stated that she can accomplish practically anything, but she did mention one impossibility.
“I’m sitting in a regular flight seat,” she explained. “But it’s not just me; there are lots of able-bodied folks as well.”