Her uncanny knack for creating plays made Paige Selenski the darling of the U.S. field hockey team in the 2012 London Olympics.
Four years later, her determination away from the field could play an important part in the team’s Olympic success.
While Selenski likely won’t get a chance to score goals, register assists or lead inspiring charges toward the cage, she will have an opportunity as a U.S. alternate to affect the outcomes of the upcoming games.
“Definitely,” said Selenski, a former Dallas High School star who is coming off of a significant injury. “Having been there and done it, I offer a different perspective. Sometimes you see more observing the game than you do being right in it. It’s an outside perspective.”
Inside, it’s gnawing at Selenski, 26, a first-team high school All-American and 2007 Pennsylvania Player of the Year at Dallas.
Selenski, who finished eighth in NCAA history with 238 career points and was a four-time All-American at the University of Virginia, just isn’t accustomed to being out of the action.
“It was not my goal to be the (Team USA) alternate,” she said.
Then she thinks about what her body’s been through, and how far she’s come.
After scoring a goal for the United States in the 2012 London Olympics, in which her team finished 12th, Selenski shot to national stardom. She was featured in ESPN Magazine’s Body Issue and was part of a promotional package for the U.S. team leading up to this summer’s Games in Rio de Janeiro.
But Selenski suffered a serious hamstring tear in March of last year. After trying to play through it with limited success, she opted to have it surgically repaired in December.
“Only 80 percent of the people who had this (type of tear) were able to come back,” Selenski said. “It was a really serious injury. I didn’t know if I’d be able to run again. When I came out of surgery, my dad didn’t think I was going to be able to play again. It’s a six- to nine-month recovery. I was back in five months, playing competitively. I’ve told myself I’m very thankful.
“I’m very fortunate to be able to play.”
She nearly played her way back onto the USA’s active squad before settling for an alternate’s spot. In that position, Selenski will accompany Team USA to Rio, practice with the squad, and offer invaluable advice.
“I do everything except play,” Selenski said.
Unless, of course, one of her teammates cannot. Then, Selenski will be waiting to charge into action while doing whatever it takes to get the United States to the Olympic medal stand.
“I’m playing a bit of a different role,” she said. “I’m excited to be there and support my team. I’ll still get to prepare for the Games. If anything were to happen, and if they need someone to go in, I’ll be there.
“I just need to be ready.”