Throughout the 2016 Paralympic Games, we will be asking our players from past Paralympic sitting volleyball teams to give their unique insight on the Paralympic experience and their thoughts on the volleyball in Rio.

What’s your favorite memory about the Opening Ceremony?

Allison Aldrich
U.S. Paralympian (2004, 2008, 2012)
Paralympic silver medalist (2008, 2012); bronze medalist (2004)

When someone thinks about the Opening Ceremony, they often think about the clothes the countries will be wearing and just what the entertainment may be. But to the athletes, the Opening Ceremony is much more. It is a whole day devoted to celebrating the opening of the Paralympic Games.

It reminds me of getting ready for prom. You have to make sure your outfit is just right, and thanks to Ralph Lauren you always look on point (as my middle schooler would say). You then have to make sure your hair is done and styled just right, especially if your outfit is paired with a hat. You have the constant feelings of butterflies in your stomach as you wait in anticipation. Then it is a hurry up and wait game, as the whole USA delegation marches to the stadium. No matter what Paralympic Games it is for an athlete, each time you step into the stadium and hear the roar of the crowd yell USA, USA, USA, you get chills every time.

I remember my first time walking into the stadium in 2004 in Athens, Greece like it was yesterday. There are just no words to fully describe the feeling you get when you enter the stadium and everyone is cheering for you! I not only feel a sense of pride for my country but truly honored to be a part of something so special. Very few people get to say that they are representing their country proud at the Paralympic Games. The Opening Ceremony is a moment in time that will stand still for an athlete because you can step away from game mode, and enjoy all the hard work you put into getting ready for the games.

Brent Rasmussen
U.S. Paralympian (2004)
Men’s Sitting Team Captain

The Opening Ceremony was a childhood dream that everyone had. Putting on the gear and walking the track chanting “USA! USA! USA!” still brings chills to me. In representing the best of the U.S., it hit me on that day that it was more than just playing my sport of sitting volleyball, but also representing the U.S. All over the world, so many dream of being FREE and living where all dreams can happen. Walking the Opening Ceremony reminded me again that we have one of the greatest gifts of the earth, FREEDOM, and that didn’t come without a price.

Watching the torch being lit made everything so surreal in that the Games were starting after so many years of training and the excitement was happening! Every time I see the torch being lit, it reminds me how great we have it and how great it is to be an athlete representing the greatest country in the world.

I am so looking forward to these games as both our men and women have the best chance they have ever had to medal. And in my position now with USAV Board, representing all sitting athletes, I am here to watch every match and help with whatever I can from the U.S. It just so happened that even yesterday one of the athletes contacted me for some info and I was right on it. I would love to support them each step of the way as much as I can. I can’t wait to see these matches on TV. Even at the unique hours they are on, I will be watching. Something I have spoken on and dreamed about for years: The United States getting to see sitting volleyball in all of its aspects.