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London bombings survivor sets sights on Paralympics

By Melissa Gray, CNN
Martine Wright, pictured right, training with the  sitting volleyball squad ahead of the 2012 London Paralympics.
Martine Wright, pictured right, training with the sitting volleyball squad ahead of the 2012 London Paralympics.
  • Martine Wright lost both legs in 2005 London bombings
  • She is now a member of Britain's sitting volleyball team
  • Team is headed to Oklahoma for world championships this week
  • Wright says she wants to compete at 2012 London Paralympics

London, England (CNN) -- Exactly five years after the suicide bombings on the London transport network killed 52 people, a woman who lost her legs in the attacks was flying to the United States as a Paralympic hopeful.

London's Martine Wright is competing this week in the world championships for sitting volleyball, a sport she says has given her confidence, helped her recover, and now makes her excited for the future.

"I can't not think about the anniversary," Wright told CNN at London's Heathrow Airport, as the team was about to depart. "It's just another weird coincidence that I'm here on the 7th. I'm flying out to do an absolute dream opportunity and I can't get away from the fact that it's happened on the 7th of the 7th. That date seems to be quite significant in my life."

Wright is on Britain's first-ever women's sitting volleyball team, and the 2010 championships in Edmond, Oklahoma, are seen as an important training ground for the 2012 Paralympic Games, which will be held in her hometown.

"Now I'm flying out representing my country to do a sport which, if you would have said this to me five years ago, I would have thought you were absolutely mad," Wright said.

Martine Wright first sampled sitting volleyball at a "taster" day for disabled sports events.
Martine Wright first sampled sitting volleyball at a "taster" day for disabled sports events.

Wright, 37, used to be an international marketing manager and traveled a lot. She was headed to work on July 7, 2005, when a suicide bomber blew himself up on a subway train near London's Aldgate Tube station. It was one of four locations bombers struck that day.

Britain remembers London terror attacks Video

In addition to losing both of her legs, Wright suffered a fractured skull and severe arm injuries. She was one of the most seriously hurt of the more than 770 people wounded that day.

She says it's her duty to those who didn't make it that day to achieve all that she can.

"I've got to grab every opportunity for every single one that didn't survive that day," she said. "I think it's my duty to go out and live life to the full, really."

Just a day before the attacks, Wright watched with her colleagues on large TV screens as London was awarded the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. She said she knew her colleagues were watching those same TV screens for news about the bombings a day later as she lay wounded.

She tried going back to work for a few months after the attacks, but found her priorities had changed. She wanted to spend more time with her family, which now includes a one-year-old son whose original due date was July 7, 2009. (He was born eight days late.)

It was at a "taster" day for disabled sports that Wright first sampled sitting volleyball, a version of the sport that allows anyone to play, including those with a disability.

"What I love about it is, number one, I'm not in my chair," she said. "You play on the floor so all you need is a ball and a net and your bottom, basically."

I think it's my duty to go out and live life to the full
--Martine Wright

International volleyball rules apply in the sitting version, with certain amendments for disabled players: During play, a player must touch the court with some body part between the buttocks and the shoulders, and players are allowed to block serves. The sport is also played on a smaller court with a lower net than the more common version.

The men's event has been part of the Paralympics since 1980 and the women's since 2004, according to the British Volleyball Federation.

Last month, Wright won a place on Britain's squad, whose members say they're determined to compete at the Paralympics in two years' time.

"It's a phenomenal achievement because the program is so new," said team captain Emma Wiggs. "It's so exciting to be part of something as new and as promising as I believe our squad is, but quite daunting to think we're going to be facing teams that are far more experienced than we are."

Britain's women's team faces stiff competition in Oklahoma from countries like China, Russia, and Eastern European countries, Wiggs said.

Vice captain Andrea Green said she was feeling the butterflies in her stomach but believed the team could perform well.

"We're just a good unit, really," Green said. "We're all very positive, we all stick together, we're a nice group, we get on well together. So our strength, really, is that we're all determined to enjoy the games and learn as much as we can."

Even if the team doesn't win, Wright said, they're looking ahead to 2012 and hoping to represent their country on home soil.

"On that day five years ago it was such a negative thing that happened in London," she added, "so for me to go back to London and return on such a high would just be fantastic, and it would seem like I've gone full-circle as well."