Mercury Olympians begin quest for Gold on Saturday

Taurasi, Pondexter Quotes From Beijing

Posted: Aug. 7, 2008

Mercury guards Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter are in Beijing, China to participate in the Olympic Games for the USA Basketball Team. The WNBA All-Stars met the media in advance of Friday's opening ceremonies.

On the pre-Olympic tournament:
It was for us a good three games. The beauty of those three games is that in the long run it really doesnít mean anything, itís just a matter of where weíre at right now and the things that we have to work at. We took some positives out of it, but looking at film and evaluating the three games, we still have a lot of things to work on to get where we want to be.

With those games, win or lose didnít really matter. We were just trying to see how well we can play together. We havenít had a lot of prep time, so every chance we can get on the court we have to make it worth our while in getting better. Thatís what we were concentrating on the most.

On being at her second Olympic Games:
Itís always different the second time. The first time, you donít know what to expect, everythingís brand new, youíre excited, youíre kind of surprised by everything. The second time around you know what to expect, which makes it easier to focus on the goal. If anything, Iíd rather be here the second time.

Everything is kind of a shock at the magnitude of the Games Ė so many countries, so many athletes, the preparation the city goes through to get set up for it. Beijing is like Athens, just an amazing place. The minute you get here, you can tell thereís something special going on. You can feel that energy, which is what you want from the Olympic Games. Itís been wonderful.

On the meaning of playing on the Olympic Team:
With USA Basketball, we spend the least amount of time together (as a team), but it probably means the most because you are playing for your country and itís a world stage. Youíre playing against the whole world. To us, it means more than anything.

Can you talk about having younger players on the team and how that is different from 2004?
It's a lot different than in 2004, but I think they have been in these roles in other settings. Sylvia, Candace, (come from) big time programs. I think that adds experience. Cappie and Seimone have been playing in the WNBA for the past three, four years, so I think it's kind of different from when I came in not really knowing the international game. Candace played in the 2006 World Championships, so she knows the style of play, what to expect. I think we are confident in all 12 people on this team.

How ticked off were you after losing to Russia in the FIBA World Championship?
That was devastating because we had been playing well. Every game we got better. To lose the way we did was very disappointing, but it was a reality check. And if you can't learn from your mistakes and take something out of it, then you're an idiot. I think we took something out of that game. We know that every time you step out on the court, if you don't bring your A-game, you'll end up playing for third place.

Is there an excitement level that builds through training and arriving in Beijing?
The minute you get to China, you feel the energy and excitement of being in the Olympic games. It is a process. When you're named (to the team), there's obviously that level of 'I finally made the team,' to training. But to actually be here and know that in two days the games start, that's an unbelievable feeling.

This team has not lost in the Olympics since 1992, are you guys a sure bet?
Well I don't know, we lost in the World Championships two years ago. We have a huge process ahead of us. We can't say the gold is locked down. We have to work towards it. Like I said, we didn't win in the world championships, and right now Australia is holding the crown. But for us, we just have to continue to get better each and every single day and work towards that. I think we have a solid chance of winning a gold medal.

Has Australia narrowed the gap with the USA?
The gap has definitely shortened in terms of the skill level and the athleticism. I think everybody around the world is improving. Not only us, but other countries as well. And that's a good thing. You go watch a game, it's not boring. You know other players from other countries. It's good for the sport.

Do you see yourself as a leader of future Olympic teams?
Definitely. I've been playing USA Basketball since I was 16 years old, and it's always been a process. Now I'm on a different level, and it's taking baby steps all over again, which is great because I'm always looking to improve and be a better player.

If you don't play that much, how do you compensate for that?
You always want to stay game ready and stay in shape, but I think everybody's role is important because you never know when your number is going to be called. For me, I want to be the best teammate I can be. Whether it's on the court, or it's on the bench cheering my teammates on. I think I have the ability to be a leader on and off the court, and the energy that I can bring to both sides. I just have to be willing to stay in the right mindset and stay focused no matter what.