|Styliani Kaltsidou has been able to put injuries behind her so far this season for Tango Bourges|
By Paul Nilsen
They say lightning doesn't strike twice, but try telling that to Styliani Kaltsidou who has only just returned to action with Tango Bourges after suffering the double whammy of successive ACL injuries.
Having had her season ended prematurely during a French Cup quarter-final in 2012, the Greek star suffered the crushing blow of having her campaign curtailed again last year, after another serious knee injury denied her the chance to step out at the Final Eight.
DEALING WITH REALITY
Lesser characters may have buckled, but Kaltsidou has shown remarkable resilience to pull the Bourges vest back over her head and finally tread the EuroLeague Women boards once again.
"The last two years have been pretty hard physically and mentally, since I've only played for more or less six months of that time," reflected Kaltsidou.
"My first injury in 2012 was harder mentally, because I didn't know exactly what I had to deal with.
"Then the second one rocked me in the beginning because it was just four months after I had returned and also during a period when I was feeling great being on the court.
"But at that time, I didn't allow myself to feel sorry about what had happened and I just moved forward towards all the things I had to do.
"Unfortunately injuries are a part of our life and that is just the way it is. There was never any other option than doing everything I needed to come back stronger and better than I was before."
She continued, "It wasn't easy, because the process has been really long and difficult. But, my desire and determination to play again was stronger than anything else.
"After my last injury, I took my time to do the best rehabilitation possible and it's a great feeling to be on the court again and to play at this level.
"I just enjoy it so much," added the 31-year-old, who can't stop smiling now she is back competing on the floor.
"I'm feeling much better physically now and day by day, my sensation in games is getting better - although I know I need more time to be at the level I want to be.
"I'm just trying to be patient, because I know that by working and with time, l will get there soon."
|This season offers the first chance for Kaltsidou to appear in a Final Eight|
The other particularly cruel aspect of her second injury was that it occurred on the eve of a potential Final Eight debut and unsurprisingly, watching the action unfold proved a decidedly bitter-sweet experience.
"Yes, it was a really hard and sad feeling missing the Final Eight, but I was so happy and excited that we made it," recalled the Thessaloniki-born star.
"It would have been my first time and I couldn't wait to be there, but got injured just three days before our departure to Ekaterinburg.
"I was then really happy and proud to see my team playing so well, but sad I couldn't share all those feelings with my team-mates, because they made such a big effort and I could see that they were enjoying it.
"And for me, that was the point - they had nothing to lose and just enjoyed the games.
"I was really frustrated to miss it, but these things happen and now I just hope I will get another chance."
OVERCOMING THE FAMILIAR FACES OF KOSICE
Standing in her way in the play-offs are Good Angels Kosice, a team Bourges have already beaten twice during the regular season - although Kaltsidou doesn't believe this is of any real significance.
She insisted, "It doesn't mean anything now and I think they are a team that we can beat, but only if we play hard physically and be concentrated for the full forty minutes.
"Play-off games are always completely different anyway and now both teams know each other well, I think we will see very different games to those of the regular season and it will be an interesting series for sure.
"The current Bourges roster is much stronger in comparison to recent years, since almost all the players are dangerous for an opponent and bring things that make it a complete team.
"The biggest strength is still the teamwork, because when we play together and we focus on what we have to do, I think that we are a really hard and tough opponent."
DREAMING OF A HELLAS RETURN
|Kaltsidou would relish the opportunity to step out for Greece next year at EuroBasket 2015|
Having stepped back out at club level, Kaltsidou is now eyeing up a return to the Greek national team and has time on her side, with her nation having already qualified for EuroBasket Women 2015.
"I haven't played for the national team during the last few years because of my injuries and I have really missed it," she confirmed.
"I was always close to the team though and I'm really happy that the girls made it to EuroBasket 2015.
"I have already talked with Coach Dikeoulakos and of course I'm coming back to the national team this summer!
"I can't wait to wear the Greek jersey again."
That's a sentiment which will no doubt be universally echoed by both her colleagues and women's basketball fans around Europe, who will also be looking forward to seeing her back on the national team beat.