LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Last year, Delaney Spaulding was preparing to compete for the U.S. Olympic softball team, but her Olympic dream nearly died after tearing the ACL and meniscus in her right knee.
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Spaulding, though, had a built-in love for softball that started at an age too early to remember.
“My parents told me that I was at the softball field at 8-weeks-old, watching my sisters play. Obviously, I don’t remember that, but I do remember taking my naps at the softball field and hearing the game being played in the background,” Spaulding said in an interview Chris Hayre. “I think that’s when I really found my love for the game, even before I touched a ball and played on my little league team.”
Like her sisters, Spaulding went on to play at Etiwanda High School. She then stayed local for college, playing at softball juggernaut UCLA.
“Representing those four letters on the biggest stage at the Women’s College World Series was a true honor,” Spaulding said. “I owe a lot to UCLA for getting me to where I am now, heading into the Olympics next month.”
In February 2020, though, while on tour with USA Softball and traveling all over the country before the team headed to the Olympics, Spaulding came up against one of the biggest disappoints and challenges in her life.
“…around the sixth inning, I believe it was, I was head toward first base. There was an overthrow. I tried to go to second base and I just fell right on my stomach,” Spaulding said.
Spaulding had torn her ACL and medial meniscus and said that she knew right away that something was wrong with her knee, just feeling of it.READ MORE: Authorities Reveal Victim of Fatal 57 Freeway Crash In Fullerton On Monday
“Honestly, I was at loss for words. I was so emotional and just crying. I couldn’t even look at my teammates. My head coach walked over to me. I didn’t even know what to say to him. I just looked at him and had tears in my eyes.”
Even on a torn ACL, Spaulding was determined to play in the Olympics, but with a global pandemic raging, the games were placed on hold.
“There were just so many ‘what ifs’ and then finally when the IOC announced that they were going to postpone and it was going to happen, just not in July 2020, I immediately got on the phone and said, ‘Look, I need to get surgery.'”
Asked how her teammates and her family lifted her up during this challenge, Spaulding didn’t hesitate, saying her teammates have been her backbone.
“I don’t know if I would’ve had the strength I have had in 2020 to rehab and then, in ’21, to get to full strength without them,” she said.
In speaking about the upcoming Olympics, Spaulding’s acknowledged the personal achievement, but said that her family played a critical role.
“Obviously, having an Olympic medal or going to the Olympic games is a personal accomplishment, but I really, really truly believe it’s a family accomplishment. I wouldn’t be here without my parents, the sacrifices that they have made, my sisters…completely. There was not a game that I didn’t have a family member in the stands at UCLA, Spaulding said.
The two-time world champion said that she and her USA teammates respect the legacy of the women’s softball team and want to uphold that legacy to the best of their abilities. As for a gold medal, Spaulding didn’t hold back.MORE NEWS: Ducks Blow Late Three-Goal Lead, Beat Kings 5-4 In Shootout
“You know, we’re not going to come across the pond without a gold medal and that’s what it takes,” she said.