By Ed Murray, NEWS 9
EDMOND, Oklahoma -- It's the sport of volleyball like you've never seen before. More than 500 athletes are in Edmond this week for the World's Sitting Volleyball Championships which could qualify them for the 2012 London Paralympics.
This is the first time the United States has hosted this event. It has attracted 36 teams from 24 countries to the University of Central Oklahoma which is an official U.S. training site for volleyball.
The athletes in sitting volleyball have some type of lower body disability. Other than a smaller court, shorter net and players sitting on the court instead of standing, you can block the serve, there's no center line, and one cheek must be in contact with the floor when contact with the ball is made.
"This isn't, you know, a special case. These are athletes. These are world class athletes. Our women are hands down best in the world, said Team USA player Charlie Swearingen.
And the U.S. women are backing up that claim at these world games with a perfect 3-0 to this point.
Charlie Swearingen first came to Edmond as a runner in the 2009 Endeavor Games. He won a gold medal but was introduced to a new love, the power, speed, teamwork and athletic challenge of this sport.
"The movement part is the big understanding hurdle to overcome. You watch the balls come real fast and they're moving and you got to get there and the only thing you have is your hands," said Swearingen.
Brenda Maymon moved from Indiana to Edmond so she could train with the team year round.
"I just really liked the self confidence that a lot of the women had when I first joined the team and it's really changed who I am. And I've been able to grow as a person... just being able to be involved in sports, an adaptive sport that you're such an inspiration to people. You know, that means the world to all of us," said Maymon.
It's also a great feeling for these transplanted Oklahomans to wear USA on their chests.
"When I put all the effort, all the training, all the hours into trying to claw my way up the ladder... the day I found out I made the team... it was...was unbelievable," Swearingen said.
"It just means the world to me to be able to do this and I'm such a lucky person to be able to do it," Maymon said.
The top three teams in each division qualify for the 2012 London Paralympics. The U.S. women won the silver at the Beijing Games.
Competition continues daily starting at 9 a.m. with the title matches this Sunday. Watch the sitting volleyball matches live online.