VANCOUVER, British Columbia — On January 5, 2011, in Oakville, Ontario, Kara Lang was forced to step away from the game she loves due to multiple injuries and ACL surgeries on her right knee. A once promising career turned into an early retirement and now almost three years later, Lang is attempting to come back to play for Canada. The chance to play in her home country at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup has drawn the now 27-year-old back to the touch-line as she strives to return.
Canada coach John Herdman made the call to Lang before the 2012 London Olympics and planted the idea that Lang could come out of retirement and try to return for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. With all the excitement surrounding Lang’s impending return she has vowed not to be rushed back when she’s not ready. The devout vegan and fitness fanatic plans to take her time as she has her eyes set on a bigger goal. Lang talked about that first conversation she had with Herdman.
“It was before the Olympics and at that time I was stressing about my first major TV gig and I think we both knew that it wasn’t going to happen before then, so I was just thinking, ‘let me focus on this and we’ll reconvene after London’ and that’s exactly what we did.”
When Kara Lang does return to the pitch, her stride, her pace, and the way she will move on the field will be completely different from what has seen from her before. Lang has had to learn how to run and change the way she uses her body to play the beautiful game. While she admits that she still has some pain that comes and goes, it’s nowhere near what it used to be. Since March, Lang has been hard at work training and learning how her body must now absorb the way she wants to play when she returns.
“We started in March and essentially changed the way I move and the muscles that I use and decrease the amount of force that I’m putting on my ligaments and the amount of impact I’m forcing them to absorb. The pressure is not on my knee anymore but now it’s more about getting the other parts of my body that I’m using to absorb that force used to that, because they’re not. I’m asking things of my glutes and my hips that I’ve never did in the past because I was doing it wrong. Now it’s kind of getting use to the changes that we made. ”
While the UCLA alumna is not willing to put an exact time-table on when she might return, Herdman has suggested that Lang could be ready for a match in the 1st quarter of 2014, and that he expects her to play in a team scrimmage sometime in January. Lang did not participate in any drills or scrimmages during the team’s training sessions in Edmonton last month or in Vancouver this week. Despite the slow process, Herdman likes what he sees and offered up this titbit regarding the 2014 Cyprus Cup being a targeted return date for Lang.
“Yeah it is, I would say that is her medium term goal. If we can get Kara back for that then fantastic, but if we can get her back for the U.S. game (Jan. 31) than even better… but that’s a bit of a long-shot, that one. Medium term if we can get her back for Cyprus she’s on track.”
One of the questions that everyone wants to know is whether or not Lang will ever return to the player she once was, and will she do more harm than good by stepping back onto the pitch. Nobody knows for sure how her body will react and how she will be able to handle any contact from teammates and opponents. Lang is hopeful that her new running style and playing technique will help her return better than ever.
“Well that’s definitely the hope,” she said. “The hope is that I can be better than I was. I think from what I’ve seen and what I know of John, he gets the best out of everybody he works with. The opportunity to play for somebody who can truly help you reach your potential is one that any athlete dreams about.”
Knee injuries and torn ACLs can often derail an athletes career just when they are entering their primes. Chelsea Buckland is another Canadian forward who is also attempting a long road back as she hopes to be ready for 2015. The promising Oregon State player tore her ACL prior to the London Olympics, and again this fall. While the Delta, British Colombia, native looks for some encouragement and positive vibes, Lang had this advice to offer to Buckland.
“I think it would be to just be patient. I think I needed more people telling me to be patient the last two go-arounds for me with rehabs. I think that just the encouragement that your day will come and that it’s better to take your time than rush it because at the end of the day you end up paying for it.”
Fans, supporters, teammates, and media across Canada have all been supportive and intrigued by Lang’s future return. She has received an enormous outpouring of well wishes, and good luck as she aims to be ready for 2015. The former football pundit talked about how much people have got behind her in what she’s trying to do.
“It’s been incredibly encouraging the support that I’ve had from the fans, people on Twitter, and people that I worked with in the media. Everybody has been really supportive, it’s inspiring. I stayed close with many of my teammates and they’ve welcomed me with open arms.”
Nobody knows what type of player Lang will be when she returns to play for Canada but she is showing great resilience, and perseverance to get back to playing the game she loves.
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