Sunday, 14 Jul 2024

From Retirement to Rio

When Chris Seilkop, a retired 6-6 middle blocker, received a call from his former teammate Jose Zabala to play in the sitting volleyball division of the 2015 USA Volleyball Open National Championships on a team for the Florida Region, he was unsure about it. After all, he had been happily retired for about eight years, living and working in Texas with his family. But Seilkop agreed to play and even recruited his friend and former U.S. Men’s Sitting Team captain, Brent Rasmussen, to join him.

During Opens, Seilkop had the opportunity to meet current U.S. Men’s Sitting Team athletes Charlie and J. Dee, and he enjoyed the experience. When they asked him if he would be interested in coming back, he gave it serious thought. Now, less than two years later, Seilkop is making his fourth trip to the Paralympics as a member of the 2016 U.S. Men’s Paralympic Sitting Team. His goal is to help the team make history and earn its first Paralympic medal. This trip to Rio de Janeiro comes 20 years after Seilkop’s Paralympic debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Seilkop finds it remarkable that his current teammate, Ben Aman, was just four years old and attending pre-school when Seilkop joined the Paralympic team two decades ago. However, age is just a number for Seilkop, who lost the lower part of his right leg due to a lawn mower accident at the age of seven.

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Seilkop’s interest in volleyball was sparked when he watched volleyball legend and current U.S. Women’s Head Coach Karch Kiraly and his teammates win gold in 1984. Although he focused on basketball throughout high school, Seilkop began playing volleyball recreationally. In 1995, he learned about the U.S. Paralympic Standing Volleyball Team and decided to try out. After a successful tryout, Seilkop became the starting middle blocker for the team.

Following the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, Seilkop transitioned to sitting volleyball and now prefers it as it is less taxing on the body. He appreciates that sitting volleyball allows him to continue playing well into his older years without the joint pain he experienced while playing standing volleyball.

On the current team, Seilkop has embraced his role as a role player. He understands that he may not start but sees value in being a supportive team member. Since rejoining the team in November 2015, Seilkop’s presence has had a positive impact on the team. Head Coach Greg Walker praises Seilkop’s commitment to servant leadership and his dedication to the team’s success.

Seilkop and his teammates are now preparing to depart for Rio de Janeiro for the U.S. Men’s Sitting Team’s first Paralympic appearance since 2004. Seilkop and the team aim to improve on their performance at the World ParaVolley Intercontinental Cup in March, where they finished 0-7. The sitting volleyball competition at the 2016 Paralympics begins on September 9 and ends on September 18, the same day as the Closing Ceremony. The U.S. team is scheduled to play against Brazil, Germany, and Egypt in pool play, although the match schedule has not yet been released.

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FAQs

Question 1: Can Chris Seilkop still compete at the highest level despite being retired for several years?

  • Answer: Yes, despite being retired for eight years, Chris Seilkop was invited to play for the Florida Region in the sitting volleyball division of the 2015 USA Volleyball Open National Championships. His skill and dedication allowed him to make a successful comeback and secure a spot on the 2016 U.S. Men’s Paralympic Sitting Team.

Question 2: How has Seilkop’s presence impacted the current U.S. Men’s Paralympic Sitting Team?

  • Answer: Seilkop’s experience and leadership have had a positive influence on the team. Head Coach Greg Walker commends Seilkop’s commitment to servant leadership and his dedication to implementing the coaching staff’s strategies. Seilkop’s presence has bolstered the team’s talent and potential.

Summary

Chris Seilkop, a retired middle blocker, made a surprising return to the world of sitting volleyball after being approached by a former teammate. Now, less than two years later, Seilkop is representing the U.S. as a member of the 2016 U.S. Men’s Paralympic Sitting Team. Despite his retirement, Seilkop’s skill and dedication have allowed him to make a significant impact on the team. As they prepare for the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Seilkop and his teammates are determined to make history and secure the team’s first Paralympic medal. Their journey is a testament to the power of perseverance and the ability to overcome obstacles.