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5 Reasons Out Olympic Rugby Player Jillion Potter is Our Inspiration

5 Reasons Out Olympic Rugby Player Jillion Potter is Our Inspiration

Potter overcame a broken neck and cancer (yes, seriously) to join her team in Rio. 

Photo: Instagram (@jillppotts)

Jillion Potter’s story is so inspiring that it seems like the plot of an Oscar-winning movie. Potter doesn’t just bring lesbian visibility to a global audience; she’s also had to overcome some incredible obstacles along the way to join the US women’s rugby sevens team at the Rio Olympics. Here are five reasons this out Olympian inspires us.

1) She’s an out lesbian who has a visible relationship with her wife.

Jillion Potter knows that being publicly out is about more than just living her own life authentically. "It transforms society’s views when young boys and girls see gay athletes with their partners, and they ask their parents, 'Oh, that’s OK?' It becomes commonplace, something people don’t have to be afraid of," she told Out. While networks often seem to gloss over the partners of out Olympic athletes, Potter casually talks about her wife Carol Fabrizio in interviews. Cute segments about her wife encouraging her to floss normalize lesbian relationships in front of a global audience. 

2) She recovered from a broken neck.


Core & Shoulder Stability w. Coach T @girlonrings @awakengymnastics #prehab #crosstraining #progress

A photo posted by Jillion Potter (@jillppotts) on

Seeing Jillion in the 2016 Rio Olympics, one would never guess she broke her neck in a test match against Canada before the World Cup in 2010. She walked off the field, and went to the hospital, but didn’t find out there had been a break until three weeks later. After surgery and recovery, with friends and family insisting she retire from the sport, she was back in the game.

3) She’s a cancer survivor.


A photo posted by Jillion Potter (@jillppotts) on

After the long recovery from her neck injury, Jillion found a tumor in her jaw in 2014. She played through the World Cup that year, since her doctors originally thought the tumor was benign. But as she toured Europe, the tumor grew. She had surgery two days after the World Cup ended, and found out she had Stage III synovial sarcoma. She began treatment immediately, with the goal of staying active and fit throughout chemotherapy and radiation. "For me, [it’s] just kind of the never-give-up attitude. In rugby, a common theme that happens in the game is just getting tackled, getting knocked down again and again, and just having to get back up and get back into the game or get back into life,” she told Sporting News. "Things are always going to knock you down, and just being able to get up from that and staying present and focusing on what you can control will really help you get over those challenges."

4) She’s incredibly positive and humble.

While Potter tends to be matter-of-fact about cancer, never dipping into sentimentality, her do-what-needs-to-be-done attitude translates into hope and positivity. When friends brought her board games and puzzles to pass time in the hospital, she walked them over to the nearby Children’s Hospital while connected to her IV pole. "Whether it’s making the Olympic team or getting through cancer, she always looks at every challenge like it’s able to be accomplished," her wife told The Denver Post.

5) She gets the job done.

At the end of the day, Potter is focused on doing the best job she can as a part of the rugby sevens team. While her story has provided inspiration to fans, it’s all about the game as soon as she’s on the field. "Honestly, Jill is Jill. She hates the cancer question," said team captain Kelly Griffin, who is also out. "She just goes out and plays like the rest of us."

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