Remarkable comeback
Reggae Girl Washington eyes W'Cup appearance after recovering from injuries have the opportunity to represent Jamaica in the World Cup would be a dream come true, and the highlight of my career.

It is said that a big vision is a driving force that motivates one to set lofty targets and big dreamers focus their energy and strength on bringing those goals to fruition.

American-born Reggae Girl Giselle Washington epitomises this life mantra, as her comeback from not one, but three anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears is a feat not simply of physical prowess and training, but of incredible willpower and resilience.

Washington's lengthy battle with the first two tears saw her missing months of action, including Jamaica's historic debut at the 2019 Fifa Women's World Cup in France. But, amidst the frustration of those setbacks, she refused to be overpowered by the difficult times.

And like a true believer and dreamer, she continued to make big plans for school and country, which she immediately set in motion in 2020 with a decent stretch of action for the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers.

However, her ambitions to make further progress, particularly as part of the senior Reggae Girlz qualifying campaign last year, was again derailed by another ACL tear.

Still, the 5ft 10in tall deceptive midfielder embraced her fate and along with it, the biblical scripture "all things work for good".

"Last year was definitely a year of growth for me physically, mentally, and spiritually. Physically, I had to work to put myself back in a spot where I could compete after my third ACL injury. I had to learn to be grateful for the small victories and to turn to the Lord for the obstacles I encountered rather than take all of the stress and pressure on myself," Washington told the Jamaica Observer from her base in Knoxville.

"Mentally, I had to learn different ways to impact my team and my community off the field as I recovered. I was able to build and deepen relationships that I will now cherish forever and I also grew in learning how to take on some of the tough mental battles of not performing as I used to before, when coming back from injury.

"I grew in trusting the Lord's plan for me and realising that His plan is good, pleasing and perfect, even when in the moment I may not see it that way," she added.

Washington, age 17 at the time, was an instrumental figure in the then Hue Menzies-led Reggae Girlz World Cup qualification, as she covers wide expanses of space and rarely makes mistakes.

The now 21-year-old, like any athlete, would be quick to point out that while the mind is willing to go leaps and bounds to achieve something, the body rarely catches up to such goals.

Where there needs to be a synergy, for most athletes, this is simply lacking and especially in Washington's case, it is almost as if she couldn't catch a break.

For some, such an experience might have trapped them in their own mind, much like an explorer lost in a dark cave. But for Washington, it was the complete opposite.

"The recovery period in 2019 was definitely tough. I had to learn that my identity is not just in this sport and that there is so much more life has to offer. I gained confidence in my mental and physical toughness and learned how to pour into others. I am super grateful for my family, friends, coaches, trainers, and everyone that helped me get through such a tough time," Washington shared.

"Overcoming these obstacles has showed me how far I've come as a person from a few years ago and how the Lord is working in my life. So with each experience, I was grateful for my blessings and I've learnt many lessons throughout this journey that I will take with me throughout my career," she noted.

Given her formidable knowledge of the game and the fact that she showed that she can play at an extremely high level with a clean bill of health, it was no surprise that Washington has been a part of Lorne Donaldson's plans in the build-up to their second-consecutive World Cup appearance this summer.

And Washington, who earns her Jamaican stripes through her mother, is eagerly hoping to be a part of the final 44th-ranked Girlz squad for the showpiece from July 20 to August 20, in Australia and New Zealand.

The Girlz are drawn in Group F alongside Brazil and France with their third opponents to come from next month's intercontinental play-offs. Before that, they will make the trek down under for the Cup of Nations tournament to face Spain, Czech Republic and Australia, next month.

"I am super excited for this season. I feel like I have the right tools to take on challenges I face. There is always room for growth and I am excited to continue on the path I am on. This year, I would just like to continue doing everything in my power to help my team win and accomplish the goals we set, on the field and off the field," the soft-spoken player said.

Washington, who has so far featured in the friendly games against South Korea and was also a part of the recently-concluded five-day camp in Florida, intends to take the necessary steps to improve her craft to find favour with Donaldson and his assistants Xavier Gilbert and Ak Lakhani.

"To have the opportunity to represent Jamaica in the World Cup would be a dream come true, and the highlight of my career. I am thankful God has given me this opportunity [to be in contention for a spot on the final squad] and I just want to continue to grow in the game mentally and physically.

"But at the end of the day, I just want Jamaica to have the utmost success. The team has come such a far way since 2019 and I am excited to see what the future has in store for us as we prepare for the World Cup," she ended.

Jamaica's Giselle Washington in action for the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers.
Sherdon Cowan

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