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CNN Today

Gender Issue Sidelines Female U.S. Paralympic Volleyball Player

Aired January 24, 2000 - 1:24 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: A 5'11" volleyball powerhouse is fighting for a chance to play in the Paralympics this year in Australia. She already has a spot on the U.S. team, but as CNN's Jennifer Auther tells us, it's her gender not her disability keeping her side-lined.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNIFER AUTHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty-two- year-old Allison Ahlfeldt is the first woman to play for the United States men's disabled volleyball team. The team recruited her 2 1/2 years ago. It has qualified for the 2000 Paralympic games in Sydney, Australia. But because Ahlfeldt is a woman, this 5'11" back-row specialist isn't allowed to compete in Sydney.

ALLISON AHLFELDT, U.S. DISABLED VOLLEYBALL TEAM: There is not a comparable women's team that I can play for. Unless I play in the Olympics, people aren't going to realize or see, oh, look, there's a woman. I can do that, too.

AUTHER: The USA team has petitioned the World Organization of Volleyball for the Disabled, or WOVD, on Ahlfeldt's behalf.

JOE SULLIVAN, U.S. DISABLED VOLLEYBALL TEAM CAPTAIN: She's got the skills. She's as good as any player in the world and should be out there.

AUTHER: The WOVD has denied the petition.

JOE CAMPBELL, WOVD REFEREE AND COMMISSIONER: It's a definite no. At least at the international level, women will not be allowed to participate with a men's team.

AUTHER: Born with an underdeveloped femur, Ahlfeldt has spent her life proving herself alongside able-bodied players.

AHLFELDT: In the United States, we only play other able-bodied teams. And then when we go internationally, we play other disabled teams.

AUTHER: This English major at the University of California- Irvine encountered her first obstacle to playing in 1998. (on camera): It was in Poland when Allison Ahlfeldt first learned her gender would keep her out of international volleyball competition. She was in uniform on the court when she was asked to go sit in the stands.

AHLFELDT: For an organization based on the inclusion of all people, disabled especially, that they would exclude you because of your sex, you know, because if you're a male or female, I think that's just absurd.

AUTHER (voice-over): Now, her fight is to sit in uniform on the bench in Sydney.

(on camera): Is that a compromise you're willing to make?

AHLFELDT: Yes, I have to. I'm going to take whatever I can get at this point.

AUTHER (voice-over): Jennifer Auther, CNN, Irvine, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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