By William James
LONDON (Reuters) - Argentina's women's hockey team captain Luciana Aymar, regarded as the game's finest female player, refused to close the door on her international career after her team lost the Olympic gold medal final on Friday.
On her 35th birthday, the seven-time world player of the year failed to clinch an Olympic gold - the only medal missing from her glittering collection - and later appeared to backtrack on plans to retire at the end of her fourth Games.
"It's going to be extremely difficult not to find me on the pitch again because I do love this sport," she said. "Physically I think that I could continue, and my team mates do try to convince me to continue."
"Right now the most important thing for me is to rest physically and mentally and after that I may consider whether I want to continue playing and whether coaches decide I'm fit for playing."
That blurred a line which was clear last week when she told Reuters she would retire after the tournament, but added that she may continue playing at club level, not for her country.
The 2-0 defeat by the Netherlands gave Aymar a second silver medal to add to bronzes won in Beijing and Athens and left her coach wondering how they would cope if she did call time on her international career.
"Her absence is going to be a big void for the Argentinian team. She's a huge athlete, she compares to Maradona, Michael Jordan, Juan Manuel Fangio," said Argentina coach Carlos Retegui.
But even he was not certain Aymar was finished, adding she still had the opportunity to continue playing and he hoped she would compete at the 2014 Hockey World Cup.
For all Aymar's uncertainty over her future, there was one thing she was certain of - asked what she felt like doing next, she said simply: "I just want to take my shoes off right now."