PORTLAND, Ore — The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of plans for people and that's no different for volleyball star and Portland native, Kim Hill. She planned on being done with professional volleyball last year, but continued playing for one last shot at a gold medal.
"Myself and some of my teammates were planning to retire after this Olympics," said Hill. "So to play one more whole year of club...and to be gone a whole 'nother year, that was mentally tough in a lot of ways."
That extra year of club experience did pay off with Hill and her club team, Imoco, winning the club title in Italy in May. Hill says the delay also helped the U.S. prepare for the Olympics.
"To be honest, this year of working through things has been a blessing and a big gift," said Hill. "I think we are way more ready this year than last year, for sure."
Hill has been a mainstay as an outside hitter on the U.S. Volleyball Team. She won Bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, after losing a five-set match to Serbia in the semi-finals.
If Team USA is able to win gold in Tokyo, it will be the first time in Olympics history.
"Our eyes have been on that for years and years now," said Hill. "And to go out that way would be incredible -- we want it."
This year's squad is ranked number one in the world and won its third straight FIVB Volleyball Nations League title in Italy last month. Hill thinks China is the biggest challenge to winning gold in Tokyo.
"They're playing really good volleyball. They were the champions -- the gold medal winners in Rio," said Hill. "They basically have all the same people coming back and they're really really strong."
Hill and Team USA will face Argentina in a preliminary match on Saturday, June 24, at 7:05 p.m.