Gold Coast: Dodgy knees and Achilles heels are problems all athletes are aware of. But Australia’s Anja Stridsman, who beat India’s Sarita Devi in the 60 kg category quarterfinal knows a bit more than others. The 31-year-old Aussie boxer has a dead person’s Achilles tendon in her knees. And now she is assured of at least a bronze medal.
It was hard to miss her gingerly walk as it was only her first fight in the just over five months since her surgery.
By beating Sarita Devi, Stridsman assured herself of a bronze medal by reaching the last four and now faces New Zealand’s Troy Garton on Friday for a chance to fight for the gold.
After the win, Stridsman said, “It was a bit scrappy, I didn’t use my feet enough and struggled to get that range and timing, but it was a good, tough fight to start with. I am recovering from an ACL injury five months ago and that felt really good and went really well today."
After the fight, she wrote on her Facebook page, “5 months and 1 day after (the) surgery, and I’m through to the Semi Finals of the Commonwealth Games after defeating India (Sarita Devi) in my Commonwealth Games Debut.
“There was definitely a lot more pressure and nerves than I had realised stepping into the ring again after so long. I wasn’t overwhelmed with my own performance but I gave it everything I had in what was a tough, competitive fight."
“Reading everyone’s messages of support has been completely overwhelming and brought me nearly to tears on a few occasions. I have tried to get back to everyone, but if I have somehow missed it, I apologise, and please know that your support is felt and it is immensely appreciated."
A few days after the surgery, she had told the local media, “I don’t know whose tendon is it that they gave me, but I know the Achilles tendon is thicker and it has become my ACL. It’s quite fascinating," she told media after the surgery.
Stridsman tore her Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) twisting it after getting tangled in a freak accident in a bout in Poland two months before the Australian team trials.
The Swedish-born graphic designer also needed $13,500 (AUD) to have a surgery, which required her to replace her damaged knee tendon with an Achilles tendon from a corpse.
Despite fearing her knees would give way anytime in the ring, Stridsman scripted a remarkable story of guts and grit as she fought her way through three fights, she fought her way into the team.
After the surgery Stridsman was based at the Australian Institute of Sports, Canberra to pursue training for the Games.
Stridsman is said to have considered the revolutionary LARS (Ligament Augmentation and Reconstruction System) surgery or a traditional hamstring replacement, but then decided to look for a specialist who would use a dead person’s Achilles tendon to fix her knee.
When she beat all odds and made the team in November, she told media, “I had tears when I won my three fights to qualify, but even then I didn’t know if they would pick me for the Commonwealth Games."
Stridsman grew up in Sweden but moved to Australia when she was 19 to study further and boxing became a passion only when she was 23.
She is one of the 13 boxers (eight men and five women) Australia is fielding in boxing. Boxing Australia invested in her and she has paid them back with a medal, which could even be a gold or silver if she wins her semi-final.