Birthdays often consist of giving gifts, celebrating with parties, and having fun on one’s special day.
For Gilas Pilipinas mainstay Jack Danielle Animam, however, her birthday last year was the exact date she tore her ACL, MCL, and meniscus during a practice session with her former Serbian club Radnički Kragujevac.
“We were running some drills. I executed a power move. I had a bit of contact with my teammate on the way down and wasn’t able to land my left foot,” Animam recalled in an interview with ABS-CBN Sports’ Power.
“I just fell down. There was no pain at first, and I didn’t hear a pop. I thought, 'Would this be an ACL injury or a hyperextension?' After five minutes, (my left leg) became sore. I felt weak.”
Animam and her handlers proceeded to take an MRI scan to confirm the extent of the injury, which was revealed to be a torn ACL, MCL, and meniscus.
The accident cut short Animam’s dominating campaign in Serbia’s top-level women’s basketball league, where she had averaged 17.5 points, 12.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.5 steals in her first eight games.
Animam and her club mutually agreed to part ways after, and the 6-foot-2 center flew to the United States for her surgery and eventual rehab.
Injuries like what Animam sustained are one of the most challenging realities professional athletes face throughout their careers. In the UAAP alone, the former NU Lady Bulldog joined a long list of athletes, present and past, who suffered the gruesome injury at one point in their collegiate careers.
Among them were UP's CJ Cansino, Kathy Bersola, and Pia Gaiser, Ateneo's Ange Kouame, Kat Tolentino, and Larry Fonacier, and La Salle's Ara Galang and Camille Cruz.
Animam has been very public about her journey in her social media accounts, including the day-by-day progress she has made.
Now that the five-time UAAP champion is close to full recovery, she said overcoming the particular phase in her career ultimately came down to a no-turning-back decision she made when she was still recuperating.
“At the end of the day, it’s all in the past. It already happened. I can’t change it. It’s either I stay in one corner doing nothing or prepare myself for the long journey,” Animam, who turns 24 on November 27, said.
“I believe everything happens for a reason. The last three years of my career have been crazy.”
Currently, Animam is back training with Gilas women. There are no more significant restrictions as to what actions she can perform inside the court, and Animam is bracing for a busy 2023 calendar for the national women’s basketball team.
“I am just really happy and grateful because I had the best people, from my surgeon to my physical therapist to my strength and conditioning trainer. They all took care of me and they really prepared me for all the things,” she added.
Aside from securing the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games golden three-peat which she spoke about earlier in the year, Animam said an ultimate goal to fulfill next year would be to qualify for the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.
Gilas Women will also participate in the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup where it will look to maintain its Division A status, as well as the FIBA 3x3 circuit. All these opportunities excite the 2019 SEA Games double gold medalist.
It is clear that as Animam closes the ACL injury page in this chapter of her basketball career, the proven winner intends to write more in the years that lie ahead.
“There will be a lot of tournaments for us next year. And every opportunity that I get, I grab it,” she said.