April 15, 2011

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Three-time Olympian and two-time Texas A&M All-American volleyball star Stacy Sykora's injuries sustained in a bus crash on Tuesday in Brazil are more serious than initially reported, and as of Thursday, she remained in serious but stable condition and in a drug induced coma in the intensive care unit at Sirio Libanes hospital in Sao Paulo.

Sykora, who was traveling with her Volei Futuro professional team for the first match in a best-of-three semifinal Superliga playoff, suffered head trauma when the team's bus overturned in rainy conditions near the gymnasium where they were scheduled to play.

Team members told Sao Paulo media that Sykora passed out, had a cut on her face and spent the night at a hospital following the accident. While other teammates were treated and released for minor injuries, Sykora, 33, was later transferred to Sirio Libanes and was bleeding on the left side of her brain. Reports indicate the Burleson, Texas, native will not need surgery but has undergone a procedure to reduce the swelling on her brain.

"She's on a ventilator now, and they basically put her in a drug-induced coma because they want to keep her from moving," her mother, Sherian Richards, told KXAS TV in Dallas on Wednesday.

The Stacy Sykora and Sherian Richards Fund has been established at the National Bank of Texas in Burleson to assist with travel and medical expenses. Donations can be made in person at the bank, 400 E. Renfro or mailed to P.O. Box 1869, Burleson, TX 76097.

Earlier this year, Sykora was named the USA Volleyball Indoor Female Athlete of the Year for 2010 after capping the season by earning Best Libero honors at the FIVB Women's World Championship in which the U.S. finished fourth.

A&M's first varsity athlete to compete in three Olympics, Sykora was an outside hitter for the Aggies from 1995-98. The dynamic and flamboyant athlete, who also lettered one year in both track and field and basketball, earned AVCA All-America honors in her final two seasons and joined the national team in January 1999, one month after completing a stellar four-year collegiate career.

Sykora quickly established herself as one of the best liberos in the world and played in her first Olympics at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia, where the libero position was making its Olympic debut. Sykora helped 10th-ranked USA to a better-than-expected fourth-place finish, narrowly missing out on a medal.

After helping USA reach a No. 1 world ranking, Sykora made her second Olympic team in 2004 and was named "Best Digger" at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. The top-ranked Americans, however, failed to reach the medal rounds and finished in a disappointing fifth place.

Devastated by USA's early exit, Sykora contemplated retirement. She stepped away from the game for nearly three years only to return in September 2007 and help the Americans qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games by finishing third at the 2007 FIVB World Cup. Sykora and her teammates went on to win the silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, marking only the second time USA had won silver in volleyball in Olympic Games history and equaling the 1984 team for best finish. Laurie (Flachmeier) Corbelli, Sykora's coach at Texas A&M, was a member of that 1984 team, and Sykora dons the No. 5 USA jersey in honor of Corbelli.

"We are grateful that the injury is not life threatening and that she should be able to live a normal life," Corbelli said. "If anyone can overcome this, it is Stacy. She is more stubborn - in a good way - and so determined and passionate to be the best, and she has proven that she is. She will fight like crazy to get back onto the court.

"I know she was planning to go for her fourth Olympics, and I hope she is able to do that. I know from experience, as an athlete you want to be able to determine your retirement date. I wasn't ready to retire when Major League Volleyball folded during the middle of the season in 1989. That was the most painful part about; I still wanted to compete. And in Stacy's case, this is not the way she wants to go out, especially with the amazing career she is having."

USA Volleyball Chief Executive Officer Doug Beal described Sykora as "an iconic member of our U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team" and "one of our most engaging players with the fans. She is a key member of the team as it competes to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games."

In the USA Volleyball press release, Women's National Volleyball Team Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon added, "On behalf of the U.S. Women's National Team staff, I want to wish Stacy a full and speedy recovery - our thoughts are certainly with her. From our understanding, Stacy is receiving quality medical treatment and has the support of our USA Volleyball family, her Brazilian teammates, the Brazilian Volleyball Federation and her many fans in the U.S. and around the World."