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Hali Adio

Hali Adio

Halimat Adio cannot stop smiling as she thinks back to London Pulse’s 72-42 victory over Team Bath Netball – but not for the reason you might think.

While an impressive performance in front of a raucous home crowd would be enough to put a grin on the face of anyone of a Pulse persuasion, the match was extra special for Adio as she made her return to the Copper Box court for the first time in almost two years.

Brought on at the start of the third quarter, the cheers as her name boomed over the PA system reflected the long journey Adio had taken to get to this point.

Two surgeries, hundreds of hours of rehab, and plenty of tears had all added up to a special homecoming in front of friends and family.

“I know I had my first match at the Season Opener, but I was really nervous as it was my first home game for two years,” said Adio.

“It was really nerve-wracking, but I was alright after a couple of minutes on court as I had my teammates around me.

“When I came on during the first game Olivia [Tchine] and Funmi [Fadoju] were cheering me on and telling me I was going to be fine. They have been supporting me from day dot.

“It was really nice getting that cheer on and everyone supporting me. I know that I am not at my best at the moment, but knowing people are really excited to see me progress and get better each time is great.

“I have told myself this year is just about getting back into it, but I am really competitive. Before the season started, I said to Sam [Bird, London Pulse head coach] I just wanted to build back into it, but now I am there I want to play a full match and start every match.

“I need to remember the long-term goal which is to sustain a full season and play into my thirties, so I need to take care of my body.”

An operation on her lateral meniscus back in 2021 was only meant to sideline the defender for six weeks, but that quickly turned into months and then years as her body seemingly refused to heal.

Eventually, it was a teary conversation with a physio that forced extra scans to discover that cartilage had been pulled off her femur.

This time, there was no prospect of a quick return, something that Adio had to come to terms with both physically and mentally.

“Before this I’d never had a big injury, and I never actually knew the toll it can have on you mentally,” she added.

“I realised after about six months that I was not getting back onto court for a very long time, it did hit me.

“You have to stay really positive, but then you think is positivity really going to get me that far?

“The first operation, I didn’t know it was going to be that long, so it was a lot for me. It was my first operation, I didn’t know what was going on, I thought the pain was all in my head at times.

“It was mentally really tough; I cried a lot more than I had in my life.

“I had a really strong support system but there were times when I felt isolated because injuries make you feel completely different, you feel like you are not yourself.

“I have been playing netball at a high level for seven years and then all of a sudden you can’t do what you are really good at; I felt like I was a bit incompetent.

“I came out of that mindset and made sure I was giving my all to this. I had to be resilient with the fact that things might not go the way I wanted them to, but I told myself with every setback there is a greater comeback.”

 

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Adio spent her time off court productively, finishing her degree in biomedical sciences and gaining her level two coaching qualification and now returns to a Pulse team very different to the one she last played for two years ago.

Sam Bird’s side now have their sights set on the title after an inaugural play-off appearance last season and the 25-year-old is backing her side to compete at the very top this season.

“Everyone is so happy, and I now get to experience what it feels like to win,” said Adio.

“Last year, people saw us as the underdogs, but we don’t see ourselves as underdogs, we see ourselves as real competitors.

“We have always seen ourselves like that, but last season really solidified that. We are just focusing on ourselves, working on what we need to, improving each time.

“We set ourselves targets, we always want to do better, we have a growth mindset. We beat Team Bath by 30, next time can we beat them by 40?”

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