Sue Bird's long road to London
Storm star Sue Bird writes about her road to the London Olympics.
Former UW volleyball player Courtney Thompson and Storm basketball star Sue Bird share their experiences at the 2012 Games in a recurring feature.
Hello, Seattle and greetings from London!
After a whirlwind few weeks we have finally arrived at the Olympic Games and I wanted to check in and say hello. My team and I just got here, and so far it has been great.
We've had our first practice at the arena, had a chance to get settled and also went through team processing. Processing is something every athlete and team goes through and it's where you get all your Olympic gear — including the opening ceremony outfit, closing ceremony outfit and the medal-stand outfit. If you ever wanted to see Diana Taurasi, Candace Parker, Tamika Catchings and the rest in a poodle skirt, your dreams may have just come true!
Our road here began almost two weeks ago. Our team got together in Washington, D.C., and has been training ever since. Unfortunately, due to a death in the family, my road to London took a little bit of a different course than expected.
After learning that my Mom's longtime partner, Dennis, had passed, I left the team to be with her and the rest of my family. While the news was as sad as it was sudden, after spending a week at home, my family encouraged me to get back to the team as soon as possible.
Even though I missed a lot of basketball, the support that my teammates, coaches and the rest of the USA Basketball staff showed was tremendous.
When it was time for me to rejoin the team they had already had two exhibition games, a meet-and-greet with President Obama and a flight from D.C. to Manchester and then Manchester to Istanbul, Turkey. That is where I met them. Istanbul is a beautiful country and the Turkish National Team proved to be gracious hosts. They even put us in a hotel with a Champions restaurant. For those of you who don't know, Champions is a very popular hotel sports bar in the U.S. All I could do was laugh when I first pulled up, because there is nothing like traveling thousands of miles to see chicken wings and Michael Jordan memorabilia (side note: Champions also had Hookah service, so there was definitely a touch of Turkey in there).
We were in Istanbul for five days, played two games and when we weren't practicing, we were either laying pool-side enjoying the weather or venturing out. Lucky for me I had already seen most of these places, which allowed me to relax and enjoy the Turkish lifestyle. Most of my "sightseeing" was me seeing food and eating it! I love Turkish food and seriously can't get enough of their baklava and rice pudding. I'm lucky I don't play there in the offseason because I could easily see it being an "LB" problem. Give me some hummus and lamb as my main dish and my inner nona is ecstatic. (Side note: I had a little help with my Spanish from Diana in that last sentence. For those of you who know what nona means, its what Diana was called affectionately by her family growing up!). I've been pretty fortunate because basketball has allowed me to travel the world and see the sights, so when I go back to a country for the second or third time I can just enjoy the culture. To me, that means finding a cafe or restaurant and trying new things. Needless to say, at some point a London pub will be graced with my presence :)
Now that we've established what my kind of sightseeing is, let me tell you one of my favorite moments of the trip. It came when our whole team got together to watch the U.S. men's team play Spain on Tuesday. Where do a bunch of American's go to watch a basketball game? You guessed it — Champions! I'm proud to say it was the first and only time I went there, but sometimes no matter how much you try to enjoy another culture a taste of home is all you need.
We just pulled up to our practice facility and it's time to go hang out with Mrs. Obama. Oh, yeah, forgot to mention we have a reception with her before our practice. No big deal :)
Until next time!
- Sue Bird