South Salem freshman aims for Tokyo Paralympics

The team knocks on Annie's leg for luck

South Salem freshman Annie Flood doesn't let her disability keep her from chasing her Paralympic dreams (KOIN).
South Salem freshman Annie Flood doesn't let her disability keep her from chasing her Paralympic dreams (KOIN).

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Before each game, the South Salem freshman volleyball team will jog around their side of the court, high-five one another and then meet in the middle, circled around Annie Flood.

Then, one by one, each starting player will take turns knocking on Annie’s right leg, hoping for a little pregame luck.

“Before one of our first games we were talking about jinxes when someone said ‘knock on wood,'” Annie recalled. “I just knock on my leg. That’s kind of my thing.”

Before each game, the South Salem freshman volleyball team will knock on Annie Flood's prosthetic leg for good luck (KOIN).
Before each game, the South Salem freshman volleyball team will knock on Annie Flood’s (center) prosthetic leg for good luck (KOIN).

Since she was 11 months old, Annie has considered her life a normal one. That’s when she received her prosthetic, 2 months after she had her right leg amputated. Annie was born with fibular hemimelia, meaning her femur was shorter than normal and her entire fibula was gone.

Annie’s parents had 2 choices: they could keep the leg as it was, or they could amputate it.

“If they left it, I would’ve been facing a lot of challenges in my life,” Annie said. “So they amputated it … I’ve been going ever since like a normal girl.”

For Annie, being a normal girl means playing sports. It also runs in the family. Her father is a football coach and her sisters both play sports.

“It was never really a question like ‘Am I going to play sports?” Annie said. “It’s like ‘I am going to play sports.'”

So Annie played as many as she could. She grew up with soccer, played a little bit of tennis, swam and even tried water polo once. Then, in 7th grade, she decided to try volleyball. Her sister had played and she figured she’d give it a shot, too.

“I like, fell in love with it,” Annie said.

Currently, she’s playing volleyball for the freshman team at South Salem, blending in with the rest of the team with the way she glides, sets and jumps during matches.

But Annie’s goals aren’t limited to the volleyball court or even the United States. She has Paralympic dreams.

“My goal is to be in Tokyo (in 2020),” Annie said. “I don’t know if that’s a very realistic goal, (but) to me it is. I think if I can push myself hard enough, I can be there”

South Salem freshman Annie Flood doesn't let her disability keep her from chasing her Paralympic dreams (KOIN).
South Salem freshman Annie Flood doesn’t let her disability keep her from chasing her Paralympic dreams (KOIN).

Annie is already off to a good start when it comes to representing her country. She flies to Oklahoma City, on an almost monthly basis, to train with Team USA’s sitting volleyball team. She’s found, when it comes to volleyball, sitting has different challenges from standing.

“Sitting volleyball uses like a whole new set of muscles,” Annie said. “You’re on the ground, sitting with no chair or anything, and you’re pretty much using from your waist-up completely — nothing else.”

Still, Annie is taking the challenge in stride, which is something she’s accustomed to. She said she’s never let her challenges, or her disability, define what she’s capable of doing.

“Ever since I was younger have always had this positive attitude like I can’t get down on myself and I can’t have pity on myself just because I have a disability,” Annie said. “Like, I’m the same as everyone else; I just look a little different.”