WEST HAM star Adriana Leon says a fantastic Olympic gold medal made her fightback from injury all the sweeter.
The winger, who turned 29 yesterday, is loving life back in London after glory with Canada at the Tokyo Games.
But she very nearly did not get on the plane at all after a painful foot fracture.
Leon, who joined the Hammers in January 2019, admitted to playing through the pain barrier before finally having an operation.
And the surgery paved the way for a triumphant Olympic run, including a goal against Team GB.
Leon said: “It was a game against the USA at the SheBelieves Cup in February where I really did some damage on my foot.
“I couldn’t even walk at the hotel. It was awful and I played through that and then got back to London and told West Ham that I needed to get a scan as something was not right.
“Sure enough, it was a fracture and I decided to do the operation because the Olympics were around the corner.
“There were definitely times after that surgery where I was thinking to myself, ‘there’s no way I’m making the Canada squad’. The way I felt physically was awful.
“I was doing triple workout days and I worked out for two to three weeks straight and made it into the squad for June.
I had an unbelievable first camp back and my team-mates were saying they couldn’t believe the condition I was in after being out for three to four months.
“I was happy just to be at the Olympics and then to win the gold was insane.
“That goal felt incredible, it made it all worth it. All the struggles and ups and downs in my career, it just felt like it was worth it.”
Following Canada’s win in Tokyo Leon says the team will turn their attention to the Women’s World Cup and attempting to win the tournament for the first time in their history.
The Ontario-born winger hopes the Olympic gold will pave the way for a professional women’s football league in her country.
She said: “I think we’re the only nation amongst the world’s top ten or 15 football sides that doesn’t have a professional league in their own country.
“That’s definitely something that we’d like to see moving forward and even things like media coverage in Canada of women’s sports is still quite poor.
“We’d like to see more media and people talking about women’s football.
“We’ve got a lot of great athletes and a lot of people can’t see it on the big screen. It’s time to change that.”
The match will see Leon come up against her international team-mate Janine Beckie for the first time since Tokyo.
Leon, who helped the Hammers reach the 2019 Women’s FA Cup final where they lost 3-0 to City, has high hopes for the Irons this season after 11 new players joined over the summer.
She said: “Our ambition is to finish as a high up in the table and I think the club has shown itself to be ambitious with the signings made this summer.”
City boss Gareth Taylor wants his side to bounce back from a 5-0 loss to Arsenal last time out but knows the Irons will be tough to beat.
He said: “They will make it difficult. Their results have been good so far.
“They have stepped up in that respect, so we are expecting a tough game.”
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