A 16-year-old Campbell River athlete is heading to Cairo, Egypt, to compete in world volleyball championships.
Emoni Bush says she never imagined volleyball would take her so far.
“It feels crazy to be able to go to places like this,” Bush said in a phone interview on Thursday afternoon.
She had just landed in Toronto, where she’s training for four days before flying to the Balkan country of Slovenia for more training and exhibition games.
Then she travels to Cairo for the Volleyball Girls’ U18 World Championship.
Twenty nations will be competing in the Egyptian capital Sept. 5-14, with Canada taking on the United States, Korea, Mexico and title-holder Italy in the initial pool phase.
“Those are all probably some of the best teams in the world,” Bush said. “I’m expecting a bunch of good games.”
The championship series is held by the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball, or FIVB, the international governing body for the sport.
Bush said she hopes the athletes will have some time to explore Cairo during their 12 days in the ancient city. The Great Pyramids of Giza “have been on my bucket list for a long time,” she said.
Bush, a member of Wei Wai Kum First Nation, switched from soccer and dancing to volleyball at age 13.
She quickly rose in the ranks, playing with girls several years her senior, said Nadgelin Cliffe, her mother.
“In the fall of her grade 8 year, Emoni was then attending Phoenix Middle School and was called up by Coach Jacky Chase to play with the Senior Girls’ team at Carihi,” Cliffe said in an email.
“Emoni accepted the challenge… For the next couple years Emoni would play with girls 2-3 years older than her.”
Last May, at age 14, she was among a dozen girls who won an All-Star Award from Volleyball BC in the under-17 category.
A write-up on the Volleyball BC website noted that Bush, already six-foot-three, “can often be seen hammering the ball into to the floor of the opposition, or providing stellar defence with her big blocks.”
Cliffe said that Bush excels in her studies and aims to play at an elite women’s level in university. Schools in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s top-level Division 1 category have already expressed interest in Bush, and she plans to tour schools in the fall.
“I’m looking at University of Arizona, University of Washington and Washington State University,” Bush said.
In May, she won another Volleyball BC Club All-Star Award, and she was selected to join the Youth National Team in June.
She’s one of just two girls from B.C. in the program, which is meant to identify and train advanced athletes with senior national team potential.
Asked if she had a message for other young people in the community, she said, “If you put your mind to something and work hard, you never know what can come of it. I never expected that I would be doing this, even a year ago.”