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When the Olympics Delay Gets You to the Games

When the Olympics Delay Gets You to the Games
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When the Olympics Delay Gets You to the Games

When the Olympics Delay Gets You to the Games

TOKYO – If it hadn’t been for a coronavirus pandemic, Dayshalee Salamán wouldn’t be at the Summer Olympics.

She is reportedly not wearing a Puerto Rican uniform when she appears in court on Tuesday. She would not represent her native country as it is making her first appearance in the women’s basketball competition. She wouldn’t live her dream.

On February 9, 2020, during the qualifying tournament in which Puerto Rico secured a place at the Tokyo Games, Salamán blew his left knee. He warped when she landed after a layup.

The dislocation ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament and sprained her medial collateral ligament. The arena fell silent when Salamán, a player known as “Dinamita” (dynamite) for her spark of energy on the pitch, was unable to stand up. Those present heard her shout: “Dios mío, no. ” (” My God no. “)

“What crossed my mind wasn’t about the present – ‘Oh no I’m not going to be able to finish this game,’” Salamán, 31, said later in Spanish in an interview. “It was about my future.

The postponement of the Olympics for a year because of the pandemic has upset the plans of many athletes. Some have had to put off personal decisions – whether to go to college, have kids, or become a professional in their sport – to continue training for another year. Some failed to qualify for the events. Some missed the Games.

Yet for a small group like Salaman, the delay provided an unexpected opportunity.

For Rikako Ikee, 21, the Japanese swimmer who was hospitalized for 10 months in 2019 with leukemia, she had more time to regain her strength and qualify for an Olympics than she would originally miss. Kim Je-deok, 17, the South Korean archer who won a gold medal in the mixed team competition on Saturday, could overcome the shoulder disease that allegedly prevented him from competing last summer.

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Alex Morgan, 32, a star footballer in the United States, bought time with her newborn daughter and avoided running against the clock to be ready for the 2020 Games. And Delaney Spaulding, 26, stopped -starting short of the US softball team, could opt for surgery on his injured right knee.

“It’s kind of weird to think about it,” Spaulding said in a recent interview. “I take a step back and I’m like ‘Delaney, this is so selfish.’ But at the same time, I think there must be some good coming out of something like that so dark.

In February 2020, Spaulding tore his ACL and meniscus while performing the basics in an exhibition match for the United States team. Olympic Games.

Recovery from surgery would take nine to 12 months. But Spaulding initially chose to skip the operation and rehabilitate his knee through physical therapy and wear a brace to continue playing the Games. Then came the postponement of the Olympics on March 24, 2020.

Spaulding immediately called officials from the US team and requested the operation as soon as possible. While summer 2021 makeup dates have yet to be announced, she figured she has time to get her right knee back on track.

She played correctly.

In March 2021, Spaulding replayed for Team USA in an exhibition match, rewarding the faith that team officials had placed in her and others despite having previously committed. to keep the Olympic list intact despite the postponement. And since last week, Spaulding helped the top-ranked U.S. team win the gold medal match against their Japanese rivals on Tuesday.

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Salamán’s first match at the Olympics will also take place on Tuesday, when Puerto Rico takes on China, ending a 16-month trip for her. She had only played four games for her professional team in Sweden when she injured her knee while playing for Puerto Rico’s team in France.

She flew to the island to have him examined by the national team doctor and waited four weeks for her MCL to heal and the swelling to go away so her ACL could be repaired. Meanwhile, the pandemic has shut down Puerto Rico and canceled all non-essential surgeries, including hers. But then the Olympics were postponed, giving Salamán more time to recover and an opening to complete a goal that had previously escaped.

“I know half of the athletes are like, ‘Why? It was my year and I don’t know what’s going to happen next year, ”she said shortly after closing last year. “I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of the athletes who were very happy with the opportunity at Tokyo 2020 and now it’s passed to 2021. It hurts, but it also gives me hope.”

Salamán underwent surgery in April 2020 and almost a year later was medically cleared to resume her activities. She overcame a setback in her recovery – an inflammation in her knee that lasted a few months – and had to regain her place on the national team, doubting that she would have used it as additional motivation to achieve one of her remaining dreams.

Salamán arrived in the Americas at the age of 15 without speaking English to continue his studies and his basketball career. She performed at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee and earned a degree in Kinesiology.

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“I come from a neighborhood and having graduated from college in the United States, the first in my family, I achieved a lot of my goals through basketball,” she said. “Reaching the Olympics would be amazing. I would make history in my neighborhood, that’s what I want, and for my family.

Other than a few trips to see his loved ones, Salamán has spent most of the pandemic rehabilitating his knee in Puerto Rico, living with his grandmother in his hometown of Caroline, and away from his partner and home in Tampa. , in Florida. Salamán used this time to revise his diet, improve his body and is now, she said, a different player – but still with his trademark fire on the bench.

As the Tokyo Olympics drew closer and concerns about the still raging pandemic persisted, Salamán said she had tried to ignore any conversations with family and friends about a possible cancellation or ‘avoid any news about it.

She said she prayed every night for strength. She feels bad that a deadly pandemic is the reason she’s even in that position now, in Tokyo, awaiting her first match with a healthy knee. But she, too, believes that a shine of good can emerge from so much evil.

“Sometimes you don’t get a second chance,” she said, “and I got a second chance. I really feel blessed and lucky.

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