Shooting for new goals

Sitting pretty: Hollie Florance with daughter Emerson.BASKETBALL used to mean everything to Hollie Florance. It was her No. 1 priority and ruled most moves in her life, taking her to the Olympics, a world championship gold medal and well-paying European clubs.
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But a lot has changed for Florance (nee Grima), who in the past 18 months has beaten cervical cancer, thanks to early detection, and in March welcomed daughter Emerson, her first child. Now Emerson rules Florance’s life, and despite the London Olympics on the horizon, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

In late 2010, during the lead-up to the FIBA world championships in Turkey, Florance took several medical tests, including a pap smear, which found she had an early form of the cancer. She stayed with the Opals, who lost in the quarter-finals, then at Christmas came to Melbourne for surgery.

After returning to France, where she was playing professionally, Florance finished the season then came home. She hasn’t played at the top level since.

Florance said the cancer scare and the six-month wait to see if it returned changed her outlook on life and, though she was only 28, she wanted to fulfil her lifelong dream to start a family. So that is what she and husband Dave did. ”I’ve kind of taken a step back; there is more to life than basketball,” she said. ”Life is so different with Emerson. I knew I wanted to have kids, after the scare, [and] realised it’s time to step back and focus on my family.”

But someone of Florance’s talent and 190-centimetre frame rarely gets forgotten in basketball, and it wasn’t long after Emerson’s birth that her old club Bulleen Boomers came calling. She initially put off the Boomers, as she was still coming to grips with her 24-hour-a-day duties as a mother. But once the Boomers signed her best friend and former Australian teammate Emma Randall, she admits she began giving a little thought to returning to the court.

Those thoughts got stronger when Randall called her soon after signing on, putting the hard sell on her good friend. The two weren’t friends when they were teenagers at the Australian Institute of Sport, but became close when Florance, originally from Tasmania, roomed with Randall’s family in Melbourne a few years later. Randall returns to Melbourne from Queensland where she was playing with Logan Thunder.

”Emma was on the phone asking me if I had made up my mind,” she said. ”I thought, ‘why not play?’ I think I’m the oldest one there. I’ve always been one of the younger players in a team, now, oh my god, I’m the oldest – the grandma.”

Randall has a baby daughter, Alexis, so Boomers trainings could resemble more of a child-minding centre next season.

Florance has already started the long road back to WNBL fitness after more than 10 months out by suiting up for Eltham Wildcats in the Big V State Championship women’s competition.

”I’m not preparing for games like I used to,” she said. ”Pre-game now is all about making sure Emerson is organised, has a clean nappy and is fed. I get her prepared then worry about what I need to do; I think it will take twice as long to get out on court.”

With the London Olympics on the horizon and the Opals once again challenging for a gold medal, one would think Florance would be feeling her absence from the team. But life has changed for the former Opal and so has her mindset.

”I haven’t missed it at all,” she said. ”Hearing the girls talking about training, I realised how much I enjoy sitting on the couch with Emerson. It might get hard watching it but I wouldn’t trade what I have now.”

Bulleen is known for its rigorous off-season training under coach Tom Maher and Florance is prepared for when training clicks into full gear after the Olympics.

”Training with Eltham is different to the WNBL, where the intensity is a lot higher,” she said. ”There is not really much you can do to simulate those high-intensity situations, so when training starts it will take a while to get used to it again.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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