Jillion Potter

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U.S. rugby Olympian Jillion Potter faces cancer again

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Jillion Potter beat cancer to make the first U.S. Olympic women’s rugby team. She’s out to beat it again.

Potter, 30, has been diagnosed with Synovial Sarcoma for the second time in two and a half years.

“Jillion has been more than just an ambassador for USA Rugby and the global game,” USA Rugby CEO Dan Payne said in a press release. “As we all know, she’s brave; a courageous teammate in and out of rugby and an inspiration to all. This latest development, though heartbreaking, is an opportunity for the community to again stand behind one of our own as she fights cancer a second time. Like she plays on the field, Jillion will give her all, and we will be there with her every step of the way.”

Potter is accepting financial assistance through this website as she seeks treatment.

Potter’s first cancer fight was inspirational.

She was diagnosed in September 2014, returned to training in April 2015, after 18 weeks of chemotherapy and two months of radiation, and was U.S. captain for the first event of the 2015-16 World Series in Dubai in December 2015.

She made the first U.S. Olympic women’s rugby squad, a sevens team made up of 12 players. The U.S. finished fifth in Rio. In group play, the Americans tied eventual gold medalist Australia, which did not lose a game en route to the title.

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Potter survives cancer, broken neck to inspire USA rugby’s thrilling run

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The United States women’s rugby sevens team inspired with its tenacity and defense this weekend, serving notice to the world powers that the Americans could play with anyone.

That Team USA’s mentality would be so strong is little surprise given the inspiration of Jillion Potter.

The 30-year-old Colorado native has dealt with a pair of things that have waylaid many a dream: Stage III cancer and a broken neck.

The U.S. advanced to the quarterfinals of the Olympics and could’ve gone even farther, nearly knocking off powerful New Zealand (hours after tying Australia). The team showed a offense-limiting structure when the opposition had the ball and electric counterattacking and intercepting runs that thrilled fans.

A Denver Post article by John Meyer speaks directly with Potter about her harrowing journey to the world stage, but perhaps the most telling quote comes from her wife, who spoke of the first days of Potter’s cancer treatment.

From the Denver Post:

“He’s usually very sympathetic, but he said, ‘Carol, when things are at their worst, you have to be at your best,’ ” Fabrizio said, sharing the story to make a point about Potter’s strength. “It kind of jarred me, and I actually was mad at him a little bit. I thought, ‘Thanks for the support.’ But then Jill showed me what that meant. The whole time she was sick, you could call that her worst, but it wasn’t. She was at her best every step of the way.”

The U.S. can still finish as high as fifth if it can get revenge on Fiji at 1:30 p.m. ET and then beat the winner of Spain vs. France.

Jillion Potter headlines U.S. Olympic women’s rugby roster after cancer battle

Jillion Potter
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Jillion Potter will be on the first U.S. Olympic women’s rugby team in Rio, less than two years after being diagnosed with stage III Synovial sarcoma in September 2014.

Potter, 30, headlines a 12-woman team that has a shot at a medal. The U.S. was fifth and sixth the last two years in the cumulative World Series season standings.

Potter returned to training in April 2015, after 18 weeks of chemotherapy and two months of radiation, with an eye on returning to international competition by the end of the year and making the 2016 Olympic team.

She was named captain of the U.S. team for the first event of the 2015-16 World Series in Dubai in December.

U.S. Olympic women’s rugby roster
Bui Baravilala
Ryan Carlyle
Lauren Doyle
Joanne Fa’avesi
Carmen Farmer
Victoria Folayan
Kelly Griffin
Jessica Javelet
Kathryn Johnson
Alev Kelter
Jillion Potter
Richelle Stephens

MORE: U.S. Olympic men’s rugby roster