- Jillion Potter broke her neck in 2010
- She was diagnosed with cancer in 2014
- Credits support of wife Carol for recovery
- Named in U.S. rugby sevens squad
This story was updated after Potter was named in the USA women’s sevens squad on July 18.
(CNN)Jillion Potter is no ordinary rugby player.
The United States Women’s Eagles star has both recovered from a broken neck and fought off cancer — and now she has won a place in the sevens team at the Rio Olympics.
“There is a picture of me a year ago, bald, standing with my teammates, and I think: ‘Wow. How far have you come?'” she told CNN’s World Rugby show after passing a significant milestone.
“It’s pretty remarkable to think about when I look back. I’m one year cancer-free, so it’s a big triumph.”
Now 30, Potter is one of the U.S. Women’s Sevens captains (the team operates with a rotating leadership) and one of her sport’s best-known figures.
And the Texan’s love of rugby — along with the love and support of her wife Carol — have helped her overcome the adversities she has faced.
Potter was a student at the University of New Mexico when she became captivated by a sport she didn’t even know existed.
“A couple of girls came up to me and said: ‘Hey you! Do you want to come and play rugby?'” she recalls.
“I didn’t even know what it was, but then it happened again the next day, and the next day. I thought I had headhunters or something.”
Potter’s first taste of the action was a tackling practice and running session — and that got her hooked.
“I remember thinking: ‘This is the sport for me,'” she says.
“I didn’t realize how physical I could be. I got knocked down by this girl, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is how it’s going to be. Let’s go!’ And I stuck with it.”
What Potter soon found — as well as her natural flair for playing the game — was that rugby provided “a massive community.”
But during those initial forays into playing, she never believed the sport could become a career.
“I had no idea there was a USA team,” she recalls. “But about six months into my collegiate career, my coach was adamant that I should go on a USA under-19 developmental tour.
“I made the under-19 team, was recruited to the under-23 team, and it just went from there.”