News / Calgary

Calgary Paralympian embarks on collegiate volleyball career

Jennifer Oakes lost her leg 13 months ago, but now playing for UBCO women’s volleyball team

Calgary-born volleyball player Jennifer Oakes starts her first semester at UBCO after representing Canada at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.  One of her first matches will involve a royal reception.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CPC-Rob Hislop

Calgary-born volleyball player Jennifer Oakes starts her first semester at UBCO after representing Canada at the Rio 2016 Paralympics. One of her first matches will involve a royal reception.

Jennifer Oakes was absent for her first couple weeks of university classes.

But for any UBCO professors looking to cause a fuss, it wasn’t without a good excuse.

The 18-year-old volleyball player was competing in the Rio 2016 Paralympics, just a little over a year after having her right leg amputated below the knee.  

And if that wasn’t remarkable enough, consider this: Oakes has joined the varsity women’s volleyball team, which remains one of the top programs in the country after a bronze medal finish at nationals last year. That means she will be competing with some of the best players in the nation on a prosthetic leg.

Oakes had to relearn the standing game after losing her leg in a boating accident last July. As she looks forward to a career playing university ball, she said she owes her quick rehabilitation to her family.

“My family was huge supporters… they pushed me farther than I thought I could go,” said Oakes.

Her mother, Kathy Oakes, said that she's astounded by the progress her daughter has made.  

“She’s been an absolute champion from the second the accident happened,” said Kathy.

While Jennifer already has an extensive list of supporters, she might be able to add a couple more next week when her team plays an inter-squad scrimmage in front of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. That’s right, Will and Kate will join 1500 UBCO students at the game as part of the 2016 Royal Tour.

Steve Manuel, the coach of the UBCO women’s volleyball team, said that Jennifer will be an excellent fit for the program. He said that despite having a full roster for the 2016/17 season, he couldn’t resist adding a player like Jennifer.

“She’s going to be a great teammate, and be a big part of our team chemistry,” said Manuel.

For now, Jennifer said she'll put the Paralympics and the Royal Tour on the back burner as she focuses on academics.

When she settled into her first English class on Thursday, she was greeted with a pop quiz.