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2016 Olympics Spotlight: Rugby Player Jillion Potter

After beating cancer, Potter looks to beat the competition in Rio.

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Jillian Potter Rugby

Two years ago, Jillion Potter’s dream of playing in the Rio Olympics seemed possible, perhaps even likely.

Having already overcome the terrifying experience of breaking her neck during a 2010 match, what else could stand in her way of a trip to South America as a member of the United States’ first Olympic women’s rugby sevens team, assuming they qualified?  

The answer to that question came, unfortunately, in the form of a doctor: Potter had Stage III synovial sarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer. She would need 18 weeks of chemotherapy and two months of radiation to remove a tumor she had noticed under her jaw.

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It was, as she told the Denver Post last spring, “hell,” but she was determined to keep going to the gym.

“Each day after radiation, I would drive to the gym and either lift, run, or do an active recovery mobility session,” she said via email. “Not only did it give me hope that I was staying on track, re-developing myself physically, but being in the gym made me happier.”

Potter, 30, said the toughness she learned on the rugby pitch was crucial in pushing herself to recover her health and the large quantities of muscle mass that she had lost during radiation.

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Fourteen months after her diagnosis and subsequent recovery, Potter was not only back on the U.S. team, but was selected to be its captain at the Women’s Sevens Series season opener last December.

The team has known it is Rio-bound for the past year, thanks to trouncing Mexico in the North American Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) Sevens Championship game in June 2015.

Whether or not she is selected as the captain for the Olympic team, if Potter is selected to the Rio roster, her presence in the locker room and hard hits on the pitch will without a doubt serve as an inspiration for her teammates.

“At the end of the day, I want to look in the mirror and know that I’ve given everything for this team and demanded all that I could of myself,” she said.

To learn more about all Olympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. The Olympics begin August 5.

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