How Olympian April Ross Uses Memory of Her Late Mom for 'Courage and Bravery' in Beach Volleyball Matches

April Ross' mother, Margie, died from metastatic breast cancer in 2001

April Ross continues to make her late mother, Margie, proud.

The 39-year-old beach volleyball star, who is competing in her third Summer Games, recently spoke to PEOPLE (the TV Show!)'s Jeremy Parsons about her preparation for Tokyo and her mindset as she chases her first gold medal with her new partner Alix Klineman. Ross, who is an ambassador for Eli Lilly, previously won bronze at the 2016 Rio Games and silver at the 2012 London Games.

Since her mother Margie's death from metastatic breast cancer in 2001, when the Olympian was a sophomore in college, Ross keeps her beloved parent's memory in everything she does, including in competition.

"I really thought about how my mom would want me to go about my life in the aftermath of her passing and what would make her proud. And that really drove me and helped me turn a corner when I wasn't doing so well," she said of her late mother, who remains a source of inspiration.

April Ross
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"I still draw on her memory today when I'm out on the court, and all the courage and the bravery she showed as she was going through her health challenges. I'm out there on the court, and it might get tough, but I know I can handle it because she handled what she did so well," Ross shared. "I would hope she'd be proud of how I've partnered with Eli Lilly. And I'm kind of using her memory to drive awareness and hopefully making it into a positive impact for people who are watching. And I hope she'd be stoked on that."

Ross, who is one of four players in her sport to have ever won multiple medals at the Olympics, strengthened her game during the year-long postponement of the Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I created a gym in my garage because obviously you can't go to a public gym or anything and worked out really hard every day, got really strong," she explained. "My partner [Klineman] took some time to get healthy, heal her injuries. And I spent a lot of time with my family, filled my emotional cup."

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In addition, Ross created a makeshift court in her backyard during a time when the world was in lockdown and quarantine.

"I had an old volleyball net in my garage, so I pulled that up, strung it up in my front yard, hooked it, actually onto my house in a palm tree," she recalled. "Found some plywood, angled it against another palm tree, and created some drills because I was like, 'I'm not going to be able to fully practice, but I want to keep a touch.' Keeping a touch on the ball is really important, even if you can't fully practice."

On Sunday, Ross and Klineman will have their first Olympic match against China at Shiokaze Park.

To learn more about Team USA, visit Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.

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