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A golden hue runs through Fiona Sitzmann's life.

It glints in the medals she has won as a six-time state champion and 11-time state tournament medalist with the Dakota United adapted sports program.

It glimmers in the words and actions of her family.

It gleams in her heart.

Take that last part from her mother, Rebecca. "Her fortitude is legendary," she said.

Fiona Sitzmann, empowered by her family and also powering the family, is the Star Tribune All-Metro Sports Awards Difference Maker for 2023.

“Fiona has always been mesmerized by sports. She is a scary strategist mentally. She is as tough as nails.”
Rebecca Sitzmann, Fiona's mother

Fiona was born on Memorial Day 2005 with Sturge-Weber Syndrome, a condition accompanied by seizures and stroke, and involving developmental and learning issues. It also is typified by a port-wine stain birthmark that in Fiona's case covers portions of her face, head and neck.

The Sitzmanns — Rebecca and father Rob and an older daughter, Rachel — had waited two years on a domestic adoption. They knew two weeks before she was born that they would adopt Fiona.

"It was a long process," Rebecca said. "We weren't the right choice for a lot of mothers. We didn't think it was going to ever happen. Luckily, it did."

The family wasn't aware then that their future daughter would have health issues.

By the time Fiona was 3, she also had been diagnosed with a rare form of hydrocephalus. She sees multiple specialists, among them neurosurgeons, neurologists, ophthalmologists, dermatologists and hematologists. She has had numerous surgeries and repeated hospital stays.

She perseveres.

"It's been very difficult, tiring mentally," Fiona said. "My parents have been very helpful through the tough times when I'm depressed. They are always trying to cheer me up.

"My parents have always provided me the right people to help me, talk to me. They are very kind."

Rob, Fiona and Rebecca Sitzmann
Rob, Fiona and Rebecca Sitzmann

Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

Rebecca turned the credit back to her daughter: "What we realized early on was her absolute strength and resilience as a young child faced with incredibly scary medical situations to just deal with it."

Always, in every season of the year, competing in sports drives Fiona. A senior at Eagan, she participates in the PI Division of the adapted sports program sanctioned by the Minnesota State High School League, PI indicating physically impaired. Her Dakota United teams are made up of students from Apple Valley, Eagan, Eastview and Rosemount high schools. She plays soccer, floor hockey and softball.

She ended her stellar run on June 3, her last game as a high school student. She had two hits and turned a pair of double plays in a 13-6 victory over Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka for the softball state championship.

"That was a fun but tough day," Fiona said. "Those were all my friends since seventh grade. We were always together."

The championship game coincided with her graduation ceremony at Eagan. She played on.

"It was important for me to stay and be with this team," she said. "I was a leader on the team. It was sad that I had to miss my friends and teachers that had bonded with me."

Her time in adapted sports helped Fiona decipher the importance of team accomplishments over individual achievements. It's all clear to her now.

"Winning as a team is so fun," she said. "There is joy when they put those medals on us."

Before the joy comes determination, in a 4-foot-9 package.

"Fiona has always been mesmerized by sports," Rebecca said. "She is a scary strategist mentally. She is as tough as nails."

Dakota United coach Brett Kosidowski realizes he will have a void to fill in his lineup.

"Fiona is a fierce competitor on the field but the kindest soul off the field," Kosidowski said. "We will miss her, but we know that our program is in a better place since she has been on this team."

Already, she has turned to her next team. Rebecca responded to questions while Fiona worked out with her Special Olympics basketball team Wednesday. It was part of a whirlwind life for the family.

“It's been very difficult, tiring mentally. My parents have been very helpful through the tough times when I'm depressed. They are always trying to cheer me up. ”
Fiona Sitzmann

"Fiona has made this the most joyful and fulfilling adventure we could ask for," Rebecca said. "She's the true hero because she's such a strong girl, and we have just grabbed onto her coat tail and held on."

The Sitzmanns aren't alone in their love for their daughter. She knows her biological parents and members of their families.

"She has two families that love her," Rebecca said. "She is so lucky."

Fiona enjoys fitting in, with her two families and her classmates and her teammates across the sports seasons.

"Just because I look different than everybody else doesn't mean that I am," she said. "I am just like any other person."

. . .

Special celebration

The Star Tribune's sixth annual All-Metro Sports Awards show will be held June 28, and this year's event will be at Target Center. The winners of 10 special AMSA honors will be introduced, capping an evening of celebrating outstanding student-athletes and those who support them. The public is welcome to join the celebration, and tickets for the event are available at

More All-Metro Sports Awards coverage can be found at