How basketball great Lauren Jackson’s remarkable comeback at 41 went | Basketball

JThe last time Lauren Jackson shot green and gold and stepped out on the pitch for the Australian Opals was in 2013. Kevin Rudd was running for re-election as Prime Minister, having wrested power from Julia Gillard a few months ago. The youngest member of the current Opals squad, Jade Melbourne, was 11 years old. You couldn’t walk down the street without inadvertently buying a frozen yogurt, and the Harlem Shake craze was taking off. The world was a very different place.

When news of Jackson’s recall to the Opals squad for the upcoming Fiba World Cup broke this week, it sent waves of shock and joy through the Australian sporting community. But as remarkable as his return may be, it’s not entirely surprising. Lingering injuries have left the 41-year-old with a whole host of unfinished business. Even in her final Olympics in 2012, a hamstring injury limited her time on the court and it wasn’t the glorious fanfare she would have imagined at a Games where she was honored as the gatekeeper. Australia’s Opening Ceremony flag.

Her last tournament in 2013 was the Fiba Oceania Women’s Championship, in which the Opals beat New Zealand twice in the two-game series to retain their title, and was largely a means to a goal, with the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in it. views. However, none of these would happen – she couldn’t recover quickly enough from heel and knee surgery in early 2014 to reach her own high standards to represent Australia at the World Cup .

Undeterred, she persisted with her rehabilitation, getting back on her feet with the Canberra Capitals in the 2014-15 season, despite needing weekly synovial fluid drained from her knee. But all his efforts were in vain and Jackson reluctantly retired at an Opals training camp in 2016, his dream put to bed.

Jackson is widely regarded as the greatest Australian player of all time. She was instrumental in Australia’s only World Cup victory in 2006, she is a seven-time WNBA All-Star, three-time WNBA MVP and two-time WNBA champion, among an abundance of other honours. In the imagination of sports fans, a player of such caliber announces his retirement through tears of joy, while clutching a gold medal or a premiership trophy. They don’t limp quietly off the field, details of their last game being remembered only by the most avid trivia buffs.

Retiring on such a note for such a famous athlete is not a comfortable position. The brilliant career plays on the mind, it takes one more chance to step out in front of a crowd and find peace before slipping away gracefully.

And so, while Jackson was down, she never came out. Not in the deepest recesses of his mind. Ambition burned in the background as she pursued a career in basketball administration, was inducted into multiple halls of fame, became involved in domestic violence prevention advocacy, had her two children Harry and Lenny and wrote a book about her career.

She took the first hesitant steps on the comeback trail when she tried using medicinal cannabis to relieve her chronic knee pain and was able to move freely again. A therapeutic use exemption to allow him to continue using the drug while playing competitively and a contract with the Albury-Wodonga Bandits – whose hometown is called the Lauren Jackson Sports Center – followed. With each adventure in the field, Jackson’s resolve grew as it became clear that his passion and skills remained intact.

Jackson’s Bandits coach Matt Paps became a key figure in his return to the Opals squad, ensuring his fitness was managed in a progressive manner to allow him to reach his peak without succumbing to a wound.

“It’s basically gone from 15 to 20 minutes on the field to training every day, to the gym every day with his coaches [and] now she coaches all team formations, all team sessions,” he told The Age. “I just see how her body has held up and how strong she’s gotten. She’s done all the hard work and I think she’s ready to go.

Once she proved to herself that her body could once again withstand the physical demands of the sport, the next step was to prove it to the Opals coaches and selectors. As Basketball Australia set the benchmarks she needed to achieve, Jackson dutifully carried out fitness tests and matches until everyone involved was confident that this comeback was not just a gimmick, but in fact a essential boost for an Opals team in search of leadership and experience.

Few understand the determination required of Jackson better than his close friend and former Opals and Seattle Storm teammate Tully Bevilaqua. She’s incredibly proud of the lengths her friend has gone to to give herself the opportunity to end her career on her terms.

“I’m so happy for Loz, not just because she’s a close friend, but also because she knows how hard she’s worked to get back into shape,” she said from Nova Scotia. Zealand, where she coaches Mainland Pouakai in the domestic league.

“Injuries have really forced Loz into early retirement, so to me it’s like she’s taking care of unfinished business…they better have that ice bath ready to go after every game – and a drink refrigerated next door.”

Although his return is not yet assured, with Jackson entering the Opal camp on Monday to fight for his place in the final team, the story so far is worthy of, if not for a prestige television series, the less than a sequel to his book. There’s a chance that this final chapter will be the most memorable of them all.

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