From the ground up, Canada’s women’s sitting volleyball team develops into solid contender

Canadian Paralympic Committee

November 05, 2022

Veterans Ellis and Peters experience rise in fortunes


EDMONTON – Back in 2014, not even 10 years ago, Canada was not part of the world championships in women’s sitting volleyball.

This week in Sarajevo at the 2022 ParaVolley Sitting Volleyball World Championships, the Canadian women are serious medal contenders. The squad reached new heights just a year ago at the Tokyo Paralympic Games where they placed fourth.

The Canadian women opened the tournament Saturday defeating Slovenia 25-18, 25-21, 19-25, 25-22. The men are 1-1 after defeating Poland Saturday 25-23, 25-16, 25-22. They lost to Germany on Friday in straight sets.

Team captain Danielle Ellis from White Rock, B.C. and Heidi Peters of Neerlandia, Alta. were among those present when the turnaround in fortunes began. In fact, 10 of the 12 players from Tokyo as well as the 2019 Parapan Am Games and 2018 worlds teams are on the 2022 squad in Sarajevo.

“We are all striving for the same thing,” said Ellis, 30, about how the team has stuck together for this long. “Fourth place in Tokyo wasn’t enough for any of us. We are all working hard to get that medal.”

It doesn’t seem that long ago, back in 2016, that the Canadian women reached a significant milestone when it qualified for the Paralympic Games in Rio. It marked the first time a Canadian sitting volleyball team competed at a Games.

They placed seventh there and seventh again two years later at the 2018 world championships in the Netherlands.

But Tokyo was a giant step forward, and now there is only one direction to go.

“We played some huge pressure matches in Tokyo which have prepared us for these worlds,” said Peters, diagnosed with bone cancer in her left leg as a teenager which eventually led to an amputation.

“Losing the bronze medal in Tokyo was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced.”

Ellis was first a member of the national team from 2009-2012. After a few years away, she returned in the fall of 2015 and has remained a key part of the team since. She says the training base in Edmonton is ideal for the players, eight of whom are from Alberta.

“We’ve got an amazing training environment,” said Ellis, who lost her right leg to cancer as a newborn.
“The team is super supportive on and off court. We’re quite close. We work hard to be inclusive and competitive. It’s been easy to keep going and keep grinding towards that medal.”

Peters has been a member of the team since 2013, including the last two Paralympic Games as well as the bronze medal winning teams at the 2019 and 2015 Parapan Am Games.

She is already known for her leadership abilities on the playing field and the boardrooms. She was recently elected to the World ParaVolley Athletes’ Commission.

“We have a leadership group on our team with me, Danielle, and Jolan Wong,” said Peters. “It’s exciting to be in that group at this time. There’s more pressure now to win, there’s performance anxiety and we want to embrace it.

“It’s easy to be scared in those big moments but that’s what we are here for. I want to lead us into some big moments again.”

Now, it’s the other countries which will likely be scared of Canada.

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