South Korean women’s basketball standout Park Ji-Soo is back. It’s been 16 months since she last played for the national team at the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Final Qualifier in Belgrade, Serbia, in February.

For Park, the 2022-2023 season was a nightmare. After suffering a panic attack, Park missed training from the end of July last year and was unable to play a full season. An absolute powerhouse with no replacement at KB and the national team, Park’s absence was devastating.메이저놀이터

Expectations for the national team, which had been aiming for the World Cup quarter-finals, changed to “doing the best we can and showing something good,” and defending champions KB didn’t even make the playoffs. This was due to the absence of Park Ji-soo.

“It’s hard,” said Woori Bank head coach Lee Sat-woo, who was previously in charge of the national team. We’re not a centre basketball team, but we’ve been playing around Park Ji-soo for more than five years now, ever since she appeared in the adult national team. It’s one thing to be without him from the beginning, but it’s another thing to be without him.” He also pointed out the limitations of the situation.

Park joined the team in the middle of the 2022-2023 season, but was never quite the same player. To make matters worse, he suffered a finger injury that ended his season prematurely and landed him on the operating table.

Samsung Life coach Lim Geun-bae said, “If all the players in all the clubs are healthy and in good shape, KB is the most difficult team. They have Park Ji-soo, who gives them 20 points in attack and 20 points in defence. That’s at least 40 points by himself. Korean volleyball has a star in Kim Yeon-kyung, who used to be the best player in the world, but Park Ji-soo is the one who has the biggest impact on a team and the entire league right now,” he said.

Park Ji-soo, who started the off-season early with her team, is still not “100 per cent recovered”. KB’s off-season training also had its ups and downs and required a lot of adjustments.

However, the call-up to the national team was inevitable. Regardless of her current form and fitness, being able to step onto the court is one thing, but having Park is another.

“I’ve only been out of the national team once, but it’s been a long time, so it’s a new feeling. Compared to recent years, there are more players my age on the national team, so there are many changes. For me, the national team has always been a bit of a challenge. From my youth national team days, I had a lot of older sisters who were at least three years older than me. The seniors tried to take care of me, but it was difficult because I was younger, but now there are juniors and it’s different. I’m comfortable with my younger sisters because we’re friends. Park Ji-hyun (Woori Bank) just talks back,” he laughed.

After confirming that Park Ji-soo did it herself, Park Ji-hyun cheerfully replied, “It’s because she likes it better and is comfortable with it, but if she doesn’t feel comfortable, I will treat her as a senior with respect in the future.”

Park Ji-soo’s physical condition is not bad. She has lost weight since before she got sick, so there are still some people who are concerned, but she is confident.

“I’m not in bad shape,” Park said. However, I’ve been out of action since last year’s off-season, so I have some sensory issues. My weight is the same as it was during the season, but I feel like I’m not gaining as fast as I used to. I eat a lot and gain weight, but then lose it quickly, so I try to put on more muscle mass than fat. Now, my body fat is the lowest since I was 20, and I’ve gained a lot of muscle mass.

National team coach Chung Sun-min commented on Park’s physical condition, saying, “He needs to gain a little more weight. We have to fight fiercely with our opponents who are physically fit inside, and I’m worried that it might be too much for him or that he might get injured,” but he added, “It’s true that he has gained muscle mass. It’s better than the last time I was called up to the national team. I’m also lifting more weight than before.”

Park’s presence is a huge boost for the team in itself, as he is an absolute trump card in the height department.

In a team with a lot of young players, Park Ji-soo is also the youngest member of the line-up, along with Park Ji-hyun, who has the most experience. There are high expectations from the fans and her teammates.

“When I was playing without (Park) Ji-soo, I often felt limited in defence, especially when I was playing without her. We did everything we could as a team, but there were times when it was frustrating. But just having her on the court makes a big difference. I’m determined to make a good showing in the offence by coordinating well with her.”

Park Ji-soo is also well aware of the expectations and responsibilities that come with the job.

Her return to the national team has renewed her resolve. She chose to wear the number 7 instead of the number 19 she wore for so long with her club and national teams.

“I changed my back number to 7 as a sign of good luck to start anew,” says Park. “Going to the Tokyo Olympics increased my self-esteem and self-worth, and I felt like I received a great honour as an athlete. I really want to go to the next Olympics, and I want to do as well as I can at the Asia Cup so that I can prepare well for the Paris Olympics,” said Park.

“I know a lot of people are expecting a lot from me. I will work hard to prepare and give the fans what they are expecting.”

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