Despite having surgery to remove a piece of bone in her foot mere weeks ago, Canberra's Karly Roestbakken still has her sights set on returning to the pitch before Tokyo.
She left the ACT more than a year ago to go play with Norwegian side LSK Kvinner FK in the Toppserien league.
The 20-year-old suffered an undiagnosed injury in her right foot for months. The injury came to a head during the opening stages of the Matildas' 5-2 loss against Germany in April, after she had to be subbed off.
She was finally given answers and underwent surgery in Norway, due to a tarsal condition caused by two bones being abnormally connected.
The defender said by the time she had surgery in late April, she had been dealing with it for four or five months, which was very stressful.
"It was a bit of back and forth, trying to do the non-surgical route and just trying to manage it but it came to a point when I was in camp, playing that first game was just the worst," Roestbakken said.
"So I had to have surgery and then hopefully in another five or so weeks I will be back playing if everything goes to plan."
The fullback said she initially thought she had suffered a knock to it, before finding out it was the way her bones formed at birth.
"I hadn't had any issues with it previously, it's literally only since the end of last year," she said.
"Where they should be separated, they were joined together. It causes a lot of friction and stress in other areas and just causes a lot of pain because the bones are constantly going up against each other."
With the coalition causing her discomfort in her right foot, she said she assumed she had the same bone make up in her left foot but "touch wood" she had had no pain in it.
With a prognosis of eight to 10 weeks, she will miss the national side's friendly matches against Denmark and Sweden next month but hopes she will make it back on the pitch before the Olympics in late July.
"I want to do it right, but also trying to push it just a little bit just to see if I can get back in time," she said.
"It's always been my dream, ever since I was a little kid. I always wanted to go to the Olympics and I think that's extra motivation for me to try and get back in time.
"I know I'll be pushing it and I've been out of the camps ... but I'm just hoping that everything goes to plan and ... [the coaches] want to take a chance on me."
She has seven caps for the senior Australian team, including featuring at the 2019 World Cup.
Her Matildas' teammates will face Denmark and Sweden in mid-June, before a squad will be announced for Tokyo.
The side will begin its Olympic campaign against New Zealand on July 21 at Tokyo Stadium, before facing Sweden and the United States.
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After a year away from her family and friends in Canberra, Roestbakken said she was weighing up her options when she made the decision to have surgery last month.
She thought about coming home for it, but in the post-COVID-19 world it was best to stay in Europe for her career.
"It was really hard, especially the four months where I was constantly in and out of playing," she said.
"When I was in camp I was having the best time ... it was like a home away from home, just being surrounded by Aussies and English speaking all the time was so nice.
"I didn't want to leave camp and when my foot went bad again it was so mentally draining, I was like, 'I really need to see my family'. So it has been challenging, but after all those months it's just a relief to finally have a solid plan."
COVID-19 in Norway
Norway has had more than 780 deaths due to COVID-19 and has had fluctuating case numbers since November, with restrictions still imposed in places due to spikes in January and March.
Roestbakken was in quarantine when she spoke to The Canberra Times, as one of her teammates had returned a positive COVID-19 test.
Their first game of the league was due to begin on Saturday but was postponed due to the case.
The former Monaro Panthers player said the team had regular testing and she had lost count of the number of tests she had had.
"I've had so many, but I'm still not used to it," she said.
She said it was hard to watch from a distance as everyday life resumed in Australia, whilst she was still dealing with heavy restrictions, new cases and quarantine.
"I think when you don't have football ... and things kept getting postponed and we weren't allowed to train for a few weeks, it made it really hard," she said.
Roestbakken made her debut in the W-League at 15 in November 2016, before she went on to make 33 more appearances, co-captain the Canberra United side and score three goals.
The Merici College graduate said she found it hard to compare the Toppserien to the W-League but the similarities to the style of play she was used to at United made the transition to playing in Europe smoother.
"My team is very attacking, like quick transitions, and that's kind of how it was in Canberra, using the fullbacks as well, going high and wide," she said.
"I wouldn't say it was an easy transition, because it's hard coming over to a completely new team."
After signing with the top tier Norwegian side in April 2020, she travelled over in May and made her debut in July. She has extended her contract with LSK until the end of the 2022 season.
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