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Kang’s Comeback

Posted December. 21, 2007 11:21,   


“I was tired and always sleepy. I went to a local hospital, and they directed me to bigger ones; two of which gave me the same diagnosis, so I ended up on the operating table.”

Kang Ji-sook of Kumho Life women’s professional basketball (28 years old, 198cm) was the tallest center in Korean basketball until Ha Eun-ju (202cm, Shinhan Bank) came along. In 1997, Kang switched teams from Shinhan Bank to Hyundai and was a steady national athlete. In August 2006, after returning from the world championships in Brazil, a hole was discovered in between her heart valves and she was diagnosed with interventricular septal defect.

After hearing that the surgery required a year of rest, she temporarily left her Shinhan Bank team and took to bed for two months. Fortunately, recovery was fast and in May, she switched from Shinhan Bank, where she had played for a decade, to Kumho Life.

On the brink of her comeback, however, she was faced with another ordeal. The disease that Kang overcame fell onto her mother Lee Bok-soon (57). Lee, who underwent two spinal surgeries in July, now needed thyroid gland and brain tumor surgeries.

“The opening game of the season was on October 28, but my mother spent 15 hours in surgery. After the game was over, I knew she was in the intensive care unit, but I couldn’t bring myself to go see her. My team lost and I wasn’t doing so well. I thought I would cry if I saw her.”

Kang has been close to her mother since childhood. They like the same kinds of food because they have similar tastes. She is closer to her mother than her sister, who is four years older.

Kang decided to play basketball as she grew to 180 centimeters tall in her second year of middle school. While her mother held her back, saying it would be a hard road to take, she became Kang’s biggest fan. When the games were over, her mother would pat her 2-meter-tall daughter on the back and encourage her to be steady, modest, yet confident.

With no points scored and six minutes into the game, Kang was slowly trying to regain her former caliber. She broke her own season record with 19 points on December 3, putting her team in the lead over Woori Bank. On Monday, she scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds, helping to defeat her indomitable home team Shinhan Bank. Perpetual underdog Kumho Life rose to third place after a three-game losing streak since the opening game.

The results of her mother’s brain surgery weren’t bad. Once bedridden, her mother is now resting at her grandparents’ place. We asked if there was anything Kang wanted to say to her mother.

“Mom, I’m sorry I yelled at you and told you not to come to my game in Yongin when you said you wanted to see me. How could you think of coming when it’s hard for you to get into a car for even a little while? I want to see you sitting in the bleachers rooting for me, too, but I can wait. I’ll play better when I see you healthy at my game. Get well soon, mom.”