Christa Harmotto-Dietzen, like most great athletes, knows a thing or two about perseverance.
Harmotto-Dietzen got her start with the Pittsburgh Renaissance, a volleyball club that qualified for the Junior National Olympics in 2004 and 2005. She would go on to be a three-year letterwinner and team captain at Hopewell High School.
She was consistently recognized for her athletic excellence, winning the Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year in 2004, multiple Athlete of the Week Awards from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, WPIAL and All-American accolades, and the 2004-2005 Female High School Athlete of the Year from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, among others.
Heavily recruited, Harmotto-Dietzen committed to Penn State and continued her tradition of excellence, receiving AVCA and Big Ten honors. She started the first 29 matches of her freshman year before being benched with a season-ending knee injury, causing her to miss the final Big Ten weekend and the entire NCAA tournament.
She would recover from the knee injury and go on to finish a stellar career with the Nittany Lions, leading the team to back-to-back NCAA Division I National Championships in 2007 and 2008. While at Penn State, she was also instrumental in four consecutive Big Ten Championships.
Many athletes would be content with achieving even half of her accomplishments, but Harmotto-Dietzen never stopped. Earning “just” a National Championship whetted her appetite, and in 2009, was named to the U.S. National Team. She competed and medaled in at least one major international match each year from 2009-2014, including the 2012 Olympic team, during which she started all eight matches and captured the silver medal.
In between these matches with the U.S. National Team, Harmotto-Dietzen played professional volleyball overseas in China and Italy.
She still was not done racking up accomplishments, though.
In 2014, despite missing most of the season with another knee injury, Harmotto-Dietzen was named captain of the International Federation of Volleyball (Fédération Internationale de Volleyball) team, which would eventually go on to win the FIVB World Championship. This 3-1 victory over China marked the first time an American women’s volleyball team has won a gold medal at a major international competition.
Harmotto-Dietzen now plans to pursue a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
For her attitude of perseverance, humility, and athletic excellence, Christa Harmotto-Dietzen was named the 2014 Dapper Dan Sportswoman of the Year. On receiving the award, Harmotto-Dietzen credited her upbringing and Pittsburgh pride:
“I love where I’m from. I love the blue-collar attitude of Pittsburgh and Hopewell Township, and that is something I carry with me wherever I go. It’s a big part of who I am as a person and as an athlete. To be recognized as a recipient of this award is just a reflection of the way I was brought up and how my parents raised me.”
Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette