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Canadian basketball veteran Lizanne Murphy hopes for Rio Olympics return

Canada’s Lizanne Murphy has been a national team mainstay for almost a decade.


A coach's punishment for a bad practice, Lizanne Murphy says, is to make players run.

During the "dark stage" of her recovery from knee surgery, the veteran member of Canada's women's basketball team would have killed to run.

"When you're injured, the only thing you want to do is run," Murphy said. "As soon as you can run, it's really the one thing you want to do."

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The 31-year-old from Beaconsfield, Que., is on the mend from tearing her anterior cruciate ligament while playing for her pro team Angers in France on Nov. 29, and said she's on pace to play in the Olympics this summer in Rio.

"Literally, when I was sitting there holding my knee right after it happened, I counted the months right away to see if I could make it for the Olympics," Murphy said in a phone interview from France. "I do have time. You always want more time to recover from an injury, but I definitely have enough."

Murphy had her surgery in France and is doing her rehabilitation there. Having four fellow Canadians nearby helps – Shona Thorburn and Katherine Plouffe are 45 minutes away, while Kim Gaucher and Michelle Plouffe are a two-hour drive. She flies home to Montreal every three weeks to work with a physiotherapist and strength coach.

Countless hours in the weight room paid off recently when she was cleared to run. She underwent a Cybex Test, which measures the strength differences between the two legs, and needed a discrepancy between the healthy and injured leg of 40 per cent or better.

"In my head, I wanted to be about 20 per cent," she said. "So all I did. … oh my gosh, I was just lifting every single day, 20 bazillion times. I feel like I've done a million squats in the last month. But it worked out because I only had a discrepancy of 20 per cent. For three months post-op, it's amazing, actually. Usually people hope to be at that point at around five to six months. So it's going really well."

She's been shooting for almost two months.

"It was really cool the day I was allowed to start shooting again, but then after that, you just live on a bike and in the weight room until you're strong enough that you can run. Those were the dark days because it's really long and you're not doing anything new and fun, all the cool stuff seems so far away," she said. "But now that I'm running, I see the light at the end of the tunnel, like: 'Oh my gosh, I'm so close to returning to play.' Even though it's a lot of weeks away, it feels a lot closer."

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Murphy has been a Canadian team mainstay for almost a decade. She played in the 2012 London Olympics where Canada reached the quarter-finals, then at the 2014 world championships where Canada finished fifth. The 6-1 small forward was one of the veteran leaders on the team that won gold at both last summer's Pan American Games in Toronto and the FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournament.

She doesn't foresee major changes to personnel for Rio, and said the key for her will be to prove she's healthy and fit when training camp opens May 17.

"I think I have to be at the best of my ability. If I'm garbage, they for sure won't pick me. That's my motivation every day in rehab: Don't be garbage," she said, with a chuckle.

Murphy will be a key piece to the Canadian team in Rio as one of the squad's most vocal leaders.

"We have a lot of different personalities on the team and I'm a very demonstrative one, everybody knows how I'm feeling kind of at all times, the good and the bad," she said. "So it's a positive and a negative for sure. I think I do bring an energy that's maybe unique to me because I've always been like that.

"I love playing for Canada. It is the only reason I come play overseas is to be ready for Canada. It's my whole heart and soul. So I hope people see that and I hope my teammates feel that, because it's really how I feel."

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The Canadian women are No. 9 on the most recent FIBA rankings, and should be considered a medal hope in Rio.

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