Softballer Tahli Moore was on the cusp of reaching the prime of her career, before she was dealt both a career and life-threatening blow, leaving the game she loved completely off-limits.
Receiving a US scholarship, competing in a junior world cup and travelling the world to hone her craft, Moore’s dream of playing for Australia was well on track. That was until her world was turned upside down by a dangerous blood clot.
Now, the tenacious athlete opens up about her experience, as she sets her sights on Tokyo 2020.
Moore’s softball journey began fifteen years ago, as soon as she was able to hold a bat. Following in the footsteps of her mother, Anne-Marie, the self-professed “Mummy’s girl” said she was inspired not only by the game of softball, but by seeing the great friendships her mum had formed through the sport.
“My mum and sister both played softball so I literally grew up playing in a shopping trolley around the diamond and watching them,” the Turramurra local said.
When she turned six, her mum finally signed her up and the determined youngster took to the sport like a duck to water.
“I just fell in love with the game straight away,” she shared.
“When I was out there playing, nothing else mattered. Being on that diamond, was truly my happy place.”
It was quickly evident that softball would become more than just a hobby for Moore, who made both the Under 19’s Australian Team and the junior British National Team as a teenager.
“I made the U19’s Aussie Team in 2013, but just missed the cut for Canada Worlds which was devastating, but I found out that because my dad was British, I could also try out for the British Team.”
Moore made the junior British Team and was able to get a world cup berth under her belt, then at 17, she was awarded a college softball scholarship with James Madison University (JMU) in Virginia, US, and she set out to chase her dreams across the globe.
“I went to America having no expectations and it was a bit of a wake-up call!” she said.
“The intensity was just crazy, which was both good and bad. I love jumping in the deep end and just having to figure out a way to thrive and cope in that sort of situation.
“I went from having one or two training sessions a week, to 3-4 hours a day of softball.”
Moore would return to Australia during her break, making her debut for the three-time National Championship winning side, the NSW Firestars in January 2017 and earning herself, ‘Rookie of the Year,’ but just two months later Moore’s softball dreams came crashing down.
The then 22-year-old suffered DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) in her shoulder. The resulting outcome was that she was not allowed near a softball field nor could she participate in any activity that could cause injury.
“In my senior year of college, I noticed a lot of tightness in my shoulder and my entire arm became swollen and discoloured,” Moore recalled.
“I went to a doctor in Florida who prescribed me with some aspirin and muscle relaxants, but I could tell something more serious was wrong.”
Moore was right to trust her intuition, as within days she was in surgery, having her rib removed and a wire inserted into the vein in her arm. Doctors put the cause of the blood clot down to a combination of scar tissue in her shoulder and spending extended hours travelling.
Moore faced the harsh reality that her dreams of playing elite softball, were essentially dashed.
“After surgery I had to stay on blood thinners for months, which meant I couldn’t be anywhere near the softball pitch because if I got hit by something, fell over or cut myself, my blood wouldn’t clot,” she explained.
“That was right at the beginning of my senior year of college and meant I wasn’t able to do anything.
“I was devastated because I’d worked so hard. I was the fittest I’d ever been, and I had to sit in the stands, not even the dugout because it was too dangerous,” she said.
“I would sit behind the home plate in the stands, watching my team play and wishing I could be on the field.”
Once she was able to start training, Moore had no strength in her shoulder which quickly dwindled away any motivation she had for making a comeback and she returned to Australia.
“I gave up on my dreams of playing softball, especially at an elite level. I said to myself, ‘Ok, maybe I’ll just coach or find myself a ‘grown-up’ career’.”
It wasn’t until she was offered the chance to study her Masters abroad, that things began to look up.
“I was accepted to study my Masters in Malta, so when I had the blood clot and couldn’t play, I said to myself, ‘This is a sign, I’ll go to Malta, study and hide from the world while working on myself as a person and recovering outside of softball’.”
Not being able to stay too far away from the game, Moore began coaching a local softball team in Malta and was later joined by her friend, Tara, who would be the catalyst for Moore’s comeback.
“My friend Tara moved to Malta to help coach a softball team I was coaching. She was a UCLA alumni and she saw something in me.
“I remember her saying to me, ‘You’re going to do it, you’re going to play this year, you’re going to make the Australian Team and you’re going to go to the Olympics,’ and my first response was, ‘No way, you’re delusional!’”
“Tara persisted and got me back into the gym and encouraged me to play in Holland, which I did and that’s when things really kicked into gear,” she shared.
“I decided I was really going to go for it and started training every day to give myself the best shot of making the Australian Team.”
Her fateful move to Holland was less than 12 months ago and the resilient 24-year-old made her Aussie Spirit National Team debut at the Asian Pacific Cup in January of this year, scoring the winning run against New Zealand, 2-1.
“It sounds silly, but it just felt right. All my hard work had finally been validated and it was just so much fun,” Moore said of her long-awaited Aussie Spirit debut.
“I was so lucky to be able make my debut on my home field, where I am most comfortable. I had my family there every day of the tournament and they were so excited.”
Despite having to deal with what she describes as “a pretty gnarly curveball,” Moore says the experience taught her some valuable life lessons.
“The entire process taught me to trust my gut, because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here.
“It also made me realise that life is short, so you need to pursue everything you want to. I studied, travelled and I live my life unapologetically. I just don’t worry about the small things anymore and only focus on what’s going to benefit me and those around me.
“You can be on your highest high, but you better be ready for that low. I never want to take the people around me, or the amazing position I am in for granted because it could all change in a heartbeat.”
Now, Moore has her sights set on the biggest stage of them all – Tokyo 2020. There, softball will make its return to the Olympics after 11 years with the Aussie Spirit vying for a spot at the Olympic Qualifiers in China in September 2019.
“Being able to represent Australia at Tokyo 2020 would be surreal. It’s something I’ve always dreamt of. I try not to hype up too much, but I would definitely cry a little bit, especially at the announcement of teams if I were to make it,” Moore said.
“It’s going to be so exciting to watch those games and I hope we make it… We will make it!”
Originally published for olympics.com.au