Despite a car accident where she nearly lost her right arm, Shaccara Orr has defied the odds to return to the volleyball court and compete at the nation’s highest level.
With unrelenting determination and a desire to return to the sport she loves, Orr embraced her rehabilitation and was able to recover partial mobility of her arm, after extensive work from the medical staff at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary and at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook.
That competitive drive has propelled back to the court where she has played her way onto the national sit-volleyball team and will be on the roster representing Canada at the Rio Paralympic Games.
Orr and her teammates punched their ticket to the Rio Paralympics last summer at the Para Pan-American Games, defeating Cuba for the bronze medal.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Orr said. “I’ve always been, since the day of my accident, which was Oct. 1, 2011, I’ve always been fighting for something and pushing for something, but I didn’t really know what it was.
“I’ve come to realize that this is the light at the end of the tunnel that I kept seeing. I didn’t know what it was, but this is the light. So when I qualified, I was in awe, I was overcome with emotion and couldn’t believe I was finally there.”
It’s been a long road since the accident outside Sparwood — a head-on collision that broke a leg as well as nearly severing her right arm. Her father and a volleyball teammate in the same vehicle also survived, but sustained serious injuries.
A force out on the court for her school and East Kootenay Volleyball Club program, Orr wasn’t content to let her injury hold her back from returning to volleyball. Though she was able to rehabilitate her right arm back to limited mobility, she trained herself to use her left arm, first returning to the able-bodied court.
However, three and a half years ago, she was recruited into Volleyball Canada’s sitting program and has been training with the team out of Edmonton over the summer.
Playing as a setter, Orr shifted her playing style to accommodate her left arm, which was a very difficult process that still carries challenges.
“There was many times where I thought about giving up or I had breakdowns,” she said. “I was used to having a really good serve and now it wasn’t going over the net and that was something I wasn’t used to and it frustrated me.
“But I just kept going.”
She was on Team Canada for the Para Pan-American Games and helped the national squad to a bronze medal last year, but it wasn’t until May that she found out she was going to play in the Rio Paralympics.
“The Pan-Am Games were amazing and so much fun and this is supposed to be 100 times bigger and way more people so I’m just excited to see that and thankful that I get to experience this because this is something that people don’t get to experience often, so I’m really grateful for that,” Orr said.
“It’s going to be really exciting going in as a team and trying to upset some of the best teams in the world. We are newer so we are kind of underdogs going in but the team’s really embracing that role and we’re just looking forward to causing some upsets and showing people that Canada is in this, we’re a part of sitting volleyball and we’re ready to compete.”
Though Orr is spending the summer in Edmonton to train, she is currently attending the University of Calgary and is studying communications.
She’s not the only Paralympian from the region; also representing Jaffray and Canada is Kevin Evans, who will be competing in archery, while Cranbrook’s Tristen Chernove will be competing in cycling.