An injury-ridden season for Steph Catley meant league appearances seemed far away, let alone making a second Olympic team.
However, his return to form was timely, with the Victorian defender booking his ticket to Tokyo.
“It’s amazing. Obviously I’ve had a tough year with injuries so getting to this point is really, really amazing. Catley said of his Tokyo 2020 Olympic selection.
“It feels so good to be back with the girls and getting ready for another major tournament after all with COVID and everything we’ve been through last year.
“The Olympics don’t come very often and you don’t know if you’re going to qualify, so being here is very special.”
His return to top form has been the work of months after ankle and hamstring injuries limited his national season. Injuries associated with COVID have made this season a season that has tested Catley in more ways than one.
“It was a lot of hard work. There was a time there when I didn’t think I would play for Arsenal. I thought my season was over at times, so it was good to play a few games there, ”she said.
Catley went on to explain that the difficult experiences she had had made her discover a strength she never knew she had.
“There were different times when I struggled. There were times when I was better, but the hits kept coming, ”she shared.
“I really learned to rely on my friends and family and found a strength in myself that I didn’t know I had.
“Honestly, it’s been a tough year, but where I am now, the way I feel playing football, I’m refreshed mentally, physically, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Catley’s focus shifted from Arsenal to the national team and she was able to make the two friendlies in June against Denmark and Sweden.
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The Swedes will prove to be a familiar opposition with the two nations facing off in Group G. For Catley, the tough tests ahead are simply part of a major tournament.
“It’s another difficult group for us. We’re usually in a pretty tough group, but it’s exciting, ”she explained.
“The first game against New Zealand is going to be very important, I think that will really set the tone for our tournament. Sweden are an amazing team, and then the United States speak for themselves.”
“These are really tough games, but we’ve already started to prepare each team well and I think everyone is really excited to start.”
The Olympic experience will not be new for Catley who represented Australia in Rio in 2016. However, there is no less pride in being chosen to represent your country again for the biggest sporting competition in the world.
“It’s pretty special. I think when you grow up and watch the Olympics you watch the athletes compete and you think they’re just the best of the best, ”explained Catley.
“It’s the biggest sporting event in the world, so representing my country for the second time makes me really very proud.”
Catley and her Aussie teammates face Japan in final warm-up match before Tokyo on July 14e ahead of facing New Zealand in their first Group G match on July 21st.