Marianna Tolo felt lost.
She had "no rhythm". Put simply, she "didn't know what to do". Her Olympic Games dream was seemingly balanced on a knife's edge as she walked a tightrope to Tokyo.
The 32-year-old was carrying an injury and "exhausted" in the wake of the WNBL's hub season in Queensland's north. But the thing about Tolo is, she's the ultimate professional. She was always going to bounce back.
But even then she wasn't sure if she'd crack Sandy Brondello's Opals roster for a gold medal tilt. She'd been awake since 4.30am the day the team was to be announced.
"To be able to be selected in the team was incredible and a dream come true really," Tolo said.
"I got that call at 9.30 in the morning, I'd been awake since 4.30am. Just to have that confirmation after I'd been through all of those challenges in the five years, it was all worth it."
What were the challenges? Where do we start? The anterior cruciate ligament tears and disappointing club seasons, though they were balanced if not outweighed by the thrill of two championships with the Canberra Capitals.
And then of course there was a little matter of a global pandemic, which at many points left Tolo fearing her Olympic dream had gone up in smoke.
The Opals star's bag was packed. She was soon due at the AIS for a swimming session as preparations began to ramp up with the Tokyo Games just months away.
Then she saw a story on her phone. The headline proclaimed the Tokyo Olympics had been cancelled. She was gutted.
"Bloody hell, I'm not doing that swimming session anymore," Tolo thought to herself.
That was that. A five-year cycle had come to no avail. A worldwide pandemic had derailed the Olympic Games.
Then came the email from the Australian Olympic team's chef de mission Ian Chesterman, stressing the Games had not been cancelled. The reports were false. The dream was alive.
"I was like 'okay, I'll do my swimming session tomorrow'," Tolo said.
"There were huge feelings of up and down, where you'd go through the highs of working hard, and also the lows whenever there were rumours that came out. You'd be like 'is it worth it, all the work I'm putting in?' It was tough, but there was going to be no other way.
I got that call at 9.30 in the morning, I'd been awake since 4.30am. To have that confirmation after I'd been through all of those challenges in the five years, it was all worth it. The next thing is we're there to do a job, and to do something we have never done before and that's win gold.Marianna Tolo on realising a dream
"In the back of your mind you're always thinking 'this could be cancelled at any moment'. The closer it got, it was like 'okay, this is actually happening'."
Rest assured, right now, it's actually happening. The Opals are fighting to advance out of the group stage despite arriving in Tokyo as the world's No. 2 team widely regarded as a medal chance.
Successive losses to Belgium and China means the Opals' finals fate is no longer in their own hands heading into the final round of matches.
With the top two teams from each of the three groups and the next two third-placed teams advancing to the quarter-finals, Australia now face a must-win clash with Puerto Rico at the Saitama Super Arena on Monday night.
But even that may not be enough with the possibility the third-ranked teams in other two groups could both finish with two wins.
The Australian squad has endured a torrid road to the Games. Liz Cambage's unceremonious exit days before they were due to arrive in Tokyo certainly did the team no favours.
The women's quarter-finals take place on Wednesday. Tolo and the Opals will do everything they can to be a part of them.
If they can't sneak in, come Wednesday night they might already be out of Tokyo. A state of emergency in the host nation means the Australian Olympic Committee will rush athletes home at the end of competitions.
Most are gone within 48 hours, some within 24. Then comes two weeks of quarantine on home soil. Those 14 days would certainly be far easier with a medal in tow.
"It's the same goal, and that's to win a gold medal," Tolo said.
"We have the benefit of having days off between each game, which is something we haven't really had that much time off before. It's going to give us a really good chance to refresh between games.
"I've got some card games and board games packed in the bag, and also some books. A couple of us girls are doing a book club so that's fun and something to pass the time.
"It is such a special thing to be able to go to the Olympics. Only a certain number of people have ever had the opportunity to do that, so it's really special.
"The next thing is we're there to do a job, and to do something we have never done before and that's win gold. Hopefully we can do that this time."
To keep those hopes alive, the Opals need to make a statement against Puerto Rico from the opening tip at 10pm on Monday.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: