Peorian Ready For Olympic Volleyball Challenge

Jake Smalley Headed to Deaflympics

PEORIA, Ill. - The two-year wait for Jake Smalley is over.

He's been training and practicing to play volleyball in the Deaflympics. The last nerve-racking hurdle to clear  is the long flight to Turkey.

"One thing I'm nervous about is the airplane. It's a 20-hour flight. I don't like planes," said Smalley. "But I'm looking forward to the experience with the deaf community, playing in other countries."

Smalley is headed to California where he will train with the U.S. team for about a week prior to the Deaflympic Games which are July 18-30 in Samsun, Turkey. 

He was born deaf but it's never stopped him from playing sports and now he coaches youth teams.

Two years ago the Richwoods High School grad made the U.S. men's national deaf volleyball team. Last last week he said he really hit home when he opened a package and it was filled with Team USA gear.

"I feel proud to represent the USA," Smalley said. "There's no other country I'd rather represent than the U.S. I'm doing it for the volleyball, I'm doing it for the USA, I'm doing it for my family."

The 27-year-old played on the U.S. national team that played in the Deaf World Championships last year. The son of former Notre Dame and Morton High School volleyball coach Jim Small, says this is by far the biggest volleyball thrill of his life.

"It's my biggest achievement," Smalley said. "I feel pride, a little arrogant. I tell my brother, who is a better player now?"

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