Champaign Paralympian Millage Is Ready For Rio
Champaign-Urbana will be well represented when the Paralympic games in Rio start next week. Local native Nichole Millage, says the community "feels like a small country" with at least 18 athletes coming from the two cities, and the University of Illinois. Millage leaves the country Friday for the Paralympic games in Rio, where she’ll play on the USA Sitting Volleyball Team.
As the city prepares again to host athletes, there have been multiple reports of budget cuts due to Brazil’s struggling economy, meaning fewer venues, and less workers at those sites, and concerns that some nations may not be able to compete.
But Millage says she’s focused solely on volleyball.
"Are we preparing and getting every possible thing we need in order to stay in the village and everything? Yes," she said. "But we kind of don’t worry about the distractions. That’s kind of what we refer to them as. So we’re more than confident that Rio’s going to pull off a great Paralympic games.”
Millage says sports have always been her passion, having played volleyball and softball while at Centennial High School. But after a boating accident on Clinton Lake 18 years ago, Millage lost her left leg below the knee. She says the incident made her want to challenge herself.
“There was a time when I was pretty down, I was trying to figure out how it was all going to work – what it meant for me," she said. "I didn’t know anything about being an amputee, or anything about having a prosthesis. So there was a time – a transition when I had to learn what it was all about. But once I figured it out, there was no stopping me.”
Millage has now played sitting volleyball for more than a decade. She won Paralympic silver medals in 2008 and 2012.
An employee of Champaign’s public works department, she got a grand sendoff Wednesday from co-workers – taking photos with them at the Olympic and Paralympic Tribute in Dodds Park.
At age 39, Millage says this is likely her last Paralympic games. She flies out to Houston Thursday for final preparations, and will leave for Rio Friday night.
The Paralympics start Wednesday. The first sitting volleyball match is Saturday, September 10.