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May 7, 2004

Looking for a sign

From: Winnipeg Sun, Canada - May 7, 2004

Setter in camp to impress


English is still the second language for many Canadians. But few list sign language as their first.

"Both of my parents were born deaf and the three of us kids can all hear so, we were learning to sign before we learned to talk," Edmonton's Larissa Cundy, who is trying to make the national women's volleyball team, said after yesterday's practice at the Investors Group Athletic Centre.

"It's not really a mystery but how I learned to talk is not clear-cut because it was from a bunch of different sources. I was signing, and talking just came afterwards."

Cundy, who speaks just as well as your average Canuck, did not find such an upbringing a disadvantage.

"A lot of people ask me if it was weird but I've never known anything else," said Cundy, 22. "I don't know what hearing parents are like so, it feels like it was a very normal lifestyle for me. I do get asked lot of questions about it. I like to talk about it, it's cool."

Nor did it cause any problems.

"She had an interesting upbringing but it's one of these things that are almost normal in this world of ours," said Team Canada coach Lorne Sawula. "There's always some great stories behind every athlete that you deal with and that's one of them."

And such athletes usually mature faster than others.

"She's come a long ways," Sawula said. "A year ago, she was on our B team and maybe was not even in our plans of where she could be. She's progressed in this last year to where she's at this camp and could be a legitimate choice to be selected and that's due to her effort."

Cundy sometimes helps her mother, who works with young deaf kids back home -- when her frantic volleyball schedule allows.

"I really like coming here and working with (the coaches)," said the 5-foot-10 setter, who will return to the University of Alberta Pandas for one more year. "Even if I'm just here a week and go home, I come out of it a better player.

"I would very much like to be a part of this program some day -- if not this year, then next year, I'll be back here again."

Cundy is battling the University of Manitoba's Stephanie Penner for a backup setter spot behind veteran Anne-Marie Lemieux of Quebec and Alberta's Gina Schmidt, Sawula said.

"She knows she still has some things to work on to make her stronger in the future," he added. "But she's given us 100% in attitude and effort in practice."

Volleyball talent, by the way, seems to run in the family as Cundy's younger brother, Nicholas, recently attended the men's camp.

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