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Tayyiba Haneef

Imagine sitting in a movie theater and never tilting your head to the side throughout the entire movie to see past the large head in front of you. Standing at a staggering 6 feet 7 inches tall, USA Volleyball women's national team player Tayyiba Haneef doesn't have to worry about jumping up and down like a kangaroo to find a lost friend in the crowd or tilting her head to catch a glimpse of the movie screen. She was blessed with the physical trait that coaches fight over and players dream of.

"God gave me this height to use it for something so I am going to put it to work," said Haneef. "My parents put me in almost every sport there is and said 'try it for a year and if you don't like it you don't ever have to play it again,'" said Haneef. "When I became a three-sport athlete they never pressured me to choose one sport."

Basketball, track and volleyball took up most of Haneef's spare time but eventually she listened to her heart and chose to pursue volleyball. "I had a little taste of the Olympics in 2000 and now I want to jump in and take one big bite," said Haneef.

In preparation for the 2003 season Haneef spent a season overseas playing in Italy. Her time abroad was a whole new experience in itself.

"It was a very difficult time for me adjusting to things…the first three months I didn't have a car, a phone, or internet access. I pretty much went to practice and then came home to my little apartment and watched all five of my Italian TV channels," said Haneef. "It didn't help that we lost practically every single game and then our coach got so mad that he decided to withhold our pay as well. Every day I found myself thinking 'why was I here' and 'do I really want to play volleyball?'"

Mentally, playing overseas was a real learning experience for Haneef. But even though it was a tough first year she plans on heading back across the Atlantic Ocean again to gain more experience in hopes of elevating her level of play. One thing Haneef figured out while she was in Italy was, "I really, really, really love the USA…I mean people say there is no place like home and it is so true…I would never give up living here for anything in the world."

This summer Haneef is back on familiar soil preparing with a team that speaks her language and shares the same goal; an Olympic gold medal. "It is on the top of everyone's mind…it's something that we all know we can accomplish but we don't want to jinx it…so now we all just get on the court every day and work as hard as we can," said Haneef.

If and when the gold medal match comes, Haneef already has her game-time attire all picked out. The socks, shoes, and uniform will all be the same, but one special item is on reserve, ready and waiting to be brought out of the closet.

"I have this Champion sports-bra from the 1996 Olympics that my mom bought for me. It is my competition bra, but I only have one so I have to save it for the big matches," admits Haneef. "It has the Olympic symbol on it and that symbol represents what I am working for, so it just seems to bring more energy out of me when I wear it."

On and off of the court, Haneef has an undeniable presence. In 2002 she started all 11 matches at the World Championships, averaging 10.3 points per match and earning a silver medal along the way.