SportsPau Gasol: "I have always fought for exceptional challenges"

Pau Gasol: “I have always fought for exceptional challenges”

Pau Gasol has lived the best and the worst during the last 28 months, since he played his last game in the NBA on March 10, 2019 until the moment he longs for and feared to miss, that of his fifth Olympic Games three weeks after have turned 41 years old. He had to undergo surgery twice for a broken left foot. He saw his brother Marc win the NBA in June 2019. He married Catherine McDonnell a month later and in September of that year he watched from a distance as the team was crowned world champion. 2020 started in the worst way. His friends Kobe Bryant (January 26) and Pau Donés (June 9) died. In September, their first daughter Elisabet Gianna was born, with that middle name in honor of Kobe’s daughter, who died in the same helicopter accident as her father. And in between, the pandemic arrived and the Games were delayed for a year. This gave him time to complete the complicated recovery of his foot and return to perform at a high level, as he demonstrated in the 23 games he played for Barça.

Question. Where did you get the strength to overcome such a serious injury?

Answer. It has always been my attitude and my mindset. I have always been a person who has been moved by challenges and I have grown up in times of most adversity and difficulty. And there have been very difficult moments, with many doubts and uncertainties in my recovery. But I have always moved with the idea that it does not remain for me. If I don’t get to something, let it not be because I haven’t fought it. Although at any time the smartest and most prudent decision would have been to turn the page. The illusion of continuing to play to retire playing and enjoying basketball at the highest level again motivated me and pushed me during those difficult moments. Right now I think it was the right decision. Things have been going very well. I have finished that stage with very good results with Barça. And now the challenge is the Games with the national team.

P. Has the heart been stronger than the head?

R. Undoubtedly. It was a very passionate, very emotional matter. The most prudent and intelligent thing would have been to say ‘we have come this far. Let’s celebrate and be proud of what has been done. ‘ But I have never been a conformist. I have always tried to strive to do exceptional things. Being able to come back here and play at the level that I have done and win another title with Barça has been worth it. It is exceptional, something by which I like to define myself and by which I like to be defined.

P. Have you had a reference during this time?

R. I have worked with Raúl López. It has helped me in this process of readjustment to the track. We worked remotely for several months when I was in the United States. And he knew what there was, a plan to shift loads, push the right leg a lot harder and release the left foot a bit. It has been a process of many months of work, of daily training and their help has been very good for me. But without a doubt, the desire to achieve it, to fight for it, the conviction not to throw in the towel, is what has pushed me to overcome something that was very complicated. Many days it was not clear to me.

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P. Were you afraid you were not at the right level?

R. That’s why precisely when I signed for Barça we decided to follow a process. I basically had a month to train individually, then with Barça B … to try and see how I progressed. What neither I nor Barça wanted is for him to play at a low or unacceptable level for my standard, right? That is why we follow a planned work process, with great patience on everyone’s part. It has been progressive and things have gone quite well as I played more minutes and games, but everything was well thought out.

This injury has been very complicated, many days I was not clear at all “

P. Return to Saitama, Japan, where Spain won the 2006 World Cup and you suffered a serious injury that prevented you from playing in the final.

R. 15 years have passed and I have been to Japan twice and I hope it brings us luck again. I would sign with my eyes closed injure myself and win the gold like then. Our mentality is always ambitious, working, enjoying and going for it all. We have always been the first to push ourselves to the max. This team will do it again. The two Olympic finals against the United States were competitive finals and in Beijing we were closer. In the end we fell a little short but with the feeling of having had options. You have to assess what it costs to win a medal and the bronze in Rio 2016 was very important.

P. What will your role be now?

R. It is clear that it will be different. I do not aspire to play all the minutes that I have played before or to have the role that I had. But I can do meaningful work, contribute, make a difference and help the team win and be better.

P. Can the period that you have competed at Barça set the tone for you?

R. Hopefully I can follow a similar line: contribute and mark the differences that I made in all those games with Barça.

P. How would you evaluate those three months at Barça?

R. I am an ambitious person, but I found myself better than I expected. I do not mark a certain level. I try to be as good as I can and that the work pays off. In the end I have exceeded my own expectations.

“My role will change, but I can make a difference with the national team”

P. What will you do next season?

R. We will see how the Games go. Hopefully the body responds as well as during these months at Barça. The most important factor is the family and the staff. This profession requires being away from the family for a long time. One of the things that I can say is that it will be my last championship with the national team and that has a very great emotional significance for all that I have lived with her. I will enjoy each moment as if it were the last, which in this case it will be.

P. But will he keep playing?

R. I don’t think about next season. Not that I rule out anything. But I’ll weigh it up. I have my family in mind. There is a time when you should know when to turn the page and dedicate yourself to other things. During the pandemic I have had the opportunity to connect with many interesting people and they have given me an idea of ​​what path I can take in the future. But I want to be a little cautious. I do not want to make a decision at once, or try to do many things, because the one that covers a lot does not squeeze.

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