Last Friday, when Fernando Rivas, Carolina Marín’s coach, encountered several missed calls from second coach Anders Thomsen, he knew something had happened. “Urgent, call me!”, The Danish wrote him on WhatsApp after seeing that he could not locate him. Rivas, who was isolated by covid at home, used to connect to training by Zoom. That day he missed it because he had a meeting. When he called his assistant, he found the image of Carolina Marín crying on the ground and clutching her left knee. The cruciate ligament had just been torn; a year and a half after surgery on the right knee. If in Indonesia, in January 2019, the ligament broke after poor support, this time it was due to a rotation, a completely different movement. He says goodbye to the Tokyo Games and will go under the knife again.
“If we need to hire a shaman, we will use a shaman,” the technician told the rest of the team while Marín underwent an MRI at the CEMTRO Clinic. The diagnosis could not have been worse: rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament of the left knee as well as a partial tear of the external and internal meniscus. “A disaster”, summed up in the team.
That day the doctors explained to Marín that there was some option that he would not have to undergo surgery. They recommended that she try conservative therapy for a while since the torn ligament seemed to have stayed in place, inside the sheath, which was intact. They explained that there was some option (remote, 1% of the cases) that the ligament could grow inside the sheath. That was a way of trying to hold out at least until the Games and opt for surgery after returning from Tokyo. The player and the team considered that, if they were able to attend the Olympic event, they would do so to participate, in no case in a position to compete and fight to repeat the gold of Rio 2016. In addition, being left-handed, the left is their dominant leg , essential for braking and exits in the game.
They were given 48 hours of margin, with the physio working piecemeal and the psychologist, María Martínez, reinforcing the relaxation and meditation sessions. And with the support of her mother, who had traveled from Huelva to Madrid to spend the weekend with Carolina. After a second review on Sunday afternoon, the 27-year-old from Huelva has decided to go back under the knife. To, at least, try to recover in time to play the World Cup in Huelva, his home, scheduled between November 29 and December 5. The break is different from the one in his right knee; this time, it took him seven months to get back on the slopes.
The emotional blow has been enormous for Marín, who in Tokyo sought to revalidate the title of Rio and enter history as the best badminton player. He was on the right track. “We showed her a performance indicator with very good results and she was totally plugged in. We were very, very happy with the work because the preparation in this final stretch was being very fine. Carolina’s start to 2021 has been the best of her career, ”confesses Rivas. He won two open in Thailand last January; he reached the final of the Masters Cup, also won the Swiss Open and at the beginning of May he won his fifth European Championship in a row.
After the serious injury in 2019, the worst injury of his career, Marín was able to return without his very physical game suffering. A week after the operation, she was already on the track, surrounded by her family and training with a limp. There was not a minute to lose: cushion on the chair to support the operated leg; and to work with the other. The physio was already there to unload his lumbar, overloaded by that atypical way of working.
“This has been very, very hard. Too much even for a strong aunt like Carol. This is very hard to digest. We are very screwed up, especially because of what she has been able to do in these last two years … If there is someone who did not deserve it, it is her, it seems that every time she manages to stick her head out, another host arrives “, sums up Fernando Rivas , who has been working with Carolina since she arrived at CAR in Madrid when she was 14 years old.
In fact, on this final stretch to Tokyo, the team put a lot of emphasis on mental work, on making him see what he had achieved, what he had overcome: first with the serious injury of 2019 and a year and a half later with the death of her father who left her very emotionally touched. He managed to transform both as an extra motivation to get gold in Tokyo. Now they are trying to cheer her up by making her see that Paris 2024 is not that far either. He would arrive with 30 years.