Sofía Aispurua: ''I love playing basketball''
SAN JUAN (Puerto Rico) – Life has thrown many hurdles in the way of the Argentine national women’s team young power forward, Sofía Aispurúa. Very severe injuries in both knees in less than a year would have knocked anyone down, but not her.
Last Monday, at the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup that’s being held in Puerto Rico, Aispurúa stepped on a court once again with her national team's jersey after two years of a lot of rehabilitation, but the same dream.
At the FIBA Women's AmeriCup 2017 in Buenos Aires, on August 8 the Argentine player suffered a patellar dislocation of her left leg that cut short her debut with the senior team and left her actionless for 10 months.
It was an uphill process, but Argentina’s #14 came back stronger. Nonetheless, destiny kept playing dirty tricks on her and in June 2016, as she was playing with her club, Obras Sanitarias, all her recovery work went down the drain at 1:20 of action, when she suffered an ACL rupture of her right knee. Scars in both legs.
“They were tough injuries. I spent two years without playing. It wasn’t easy but it never crossed my mind to stop playing. These are things that can happen. You work with your body and you're not exempt from having things happen to you. I also learned a lot, like that this happened because I tried to do more. If I would've been happy with what I had I probably wouldn't be where I am now. It's the love for the game,” explained Aispurúa to FIBA.basketball.
Before she suffered her injuries, the player witnessed how her teammates went through times of difficult injuries. She never thought that something like that could happen to her. “But when it happens to you and you really love what you do, I think that you don't do anything that's not coming back. I was starting to play with the national team, to play overseas. Everything that I had worked for started happening. I wouldn’t let one or two injuries throw me off track. I love being here, I love playing in the national team, I love playing basketball. That’s what gave me the strength to continue.”
“Did you ever think about quitting?” she was asked.
“Never. Never,” without giving it a second thought answered Aispurúa, who started wearing her nation's jersey in 2009 at the youth level and competed in the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in 2013.
The athlete found the humorous side of the situation when her second injury happened: “the right knee was jealous of the left and also wanted her scar,” she wrote on social media, in a message that left everyone in shock with this new test of her character's strength.
“When you can't find an explanation to things, there's nothing left to do but to take it with grace and find the positive side. The rehabilitation process of the first knee wasn't easy. I wasn’t feeling well, I couldn’t see the end of it. The second (injury) required a pause. I had six months more to recover everything and be well; like I had to be. You then start to try to find solutions to everything and to try to take it with grace, because if you don’t, you don't come back,” explained Aispurúa, who missed the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Tenerife due to her injuries, and was also left out of the Argentine squad for the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima.
Then, in San Juan, in the continental tournament, the same one where she made official her career with the national team, Aispurúa once again wore the number 14 on her back. The first game was against Brazil and Aispurúa started in the encounter.
“A lot went through my mind. I had to control my emotions. I'm a woman of a lot of emotions, the thing is that you don't really notice them on my face. However, on the inside I was very emotional because my first knee injury happened with the national team, precisely two years ago,” said the young 24-year-old baller.
She played for a mere nine minutes on the court. The result didn't favor Argentina, but she triumphed by convincingly coming back.
“It wasn’t revenge, it was more like an opportunity of showing that I can be here, that I can help my teammates win. It was a reward to the fact that I never sat idly by, neither in the first nor in the second (injury), and not when I was left out of Lima. It's a gift because I worked a lot to be here. It's rewarding.”
Argentina, who were silver medalists in the last edition of the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup, were left out of the semi-finals in the 2019 edition. But Aispurúa already had her achievement that confirms that she's healthy and that all the sacrifices she has undergone in the past two years were worth it. However, she still wants a collective achievement that leaves a mark on Argentine Basketball, just like the ones left on her knees that remember her of the tough roads traveled since August 8, 2017.
“Just being here is a total reward. Obviously, (I want) the team to reach the highest place possible. In the November Pre-Qualifiers we want to be one of the first two teams that will go to the Olympic Qualifiers in February and, obviously, qualify to Tokyo which would be the first time that women’s Argentine basketball would qualify (to the Olympic Games),” she pointed out.
“But for now, I'm pleased, not satisfied, to have been able to come here.”
Marcos Mejías Ortiz