Three-time Olympian Stacy Sykora has decided to formally retire from the U.S. national volleyball team, two years after she sustained a serious brain injury in a bus accident while playing in Brazil.
Sykora has played on a limited basis since the injury, which impacted her vision. But a recent stint as a coach at the USA Volleyball High Performance Championships spurred her to officially retire and move on to the next phase of her career.
Sykora, who is from Burleson, won a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. She is one of the players who defined indoor volleyball's libero position, which became part of the international game in 1998.
The 5-foot-10 former outside hitter was named USA Volleyball's indoor player of the year in 2010 after leading the national team to that year's FIVB World Championship.
But on a rainy April evening in 2011, the bus taking Sykora and her Brazilian professional team to a match overturned just outside of Sao Paulo. Sykora suffered bleeding and swelling on the left side of her brain, which prompted doctors to put her in a medically induced coma.
The accident had lingering effects on her vision and at times she had trouble tracking the ball, but she continued to train with the U.S. national team in advance of the 2012 Olympics. While she did not make the roster for London, she did play on the team that won gold at the Pan American Cup.
She concluded her career in December when she parted ways with a professional team in Italy.
"My career has been an amazing journey," she said in a statement Wednesday. "I do not have one regret. I got to see the world; experience the world. My teammates are my sisters, my family. USA Volleyball allowed me to live out my childhood dream. They were there for me when I needed them. They always supported me and allowed me to be Stacy."
Sykora, 36, was a three-sport athlete at Texas A&M, competing in volleyball, track and basketball. She joined the national team in 1999 and played for the United States in the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Olympics.