Roughly one year ago, a stomach-turning snapping sound signaled an unexpected detour in Justin Douglas’s promising athletic career.
During a football game with the Robert Bateman Timberwolves varsity squad, Douglas was carrying the ball when an opponent dove to take him out at the legs. The tackler’s helmet smashed into his right knee.
“There was definitely a loud pop, and I went straight into shock after that,” Douglas recalled, noting that two major knee ligaments – the ACL and MCL – were torn in the collision.
“It was really scary. I thought for sure it would be really hard to overcome.”
In some respects, it was. After reconstructive surgery in January, Douglas was rehabbing in the gym twice a day for the next six-and-a-half months before finally being cleared to play his favourite sport, rugby. At that point, learning to trust his knee again when he made hard cuts was a challenge.
But in the big picture, Douglas’s recovery has been simply remarkable. On Tuesday, he was one of 12 athletes named to the Canadian senior men’s sevens squad for the Gold Coast Sevens, a tournament in Australia which runs Oct. 13-14. At 18, he’s the youngest player on the squad.
“It feels unreal,” he told The News. “I’m feeling (physically) right back to where I used to be.”
When Douglas was lying on the football field coming to grips with what he knew was a devastating knee injury, his mind went directly to all the rugby trips he was going to miss – Cuba, Las Vegas, Hong Kong and England, with the national U18 and U19 programs.
He’ll have a chance to make up for lost travel time in a big way in the coming months. The Gold Coast tourney is merely the first leg of the nine-event IRB Sevens World Series, and while Douglas will have to win his spot on the team for those trips, he’s well-positioned to do so.
“The next tour, I believe, is to Dubai, and then there’s New Zealand, Hong Kong, Scotland, Vegas,” said Douglas, who recently moved to Victoria because he’s now a nationally carded athlete.
“It feels pretty good.”