Bird Will Go for Third Gold

Kevin Pelton, | March 30, 2012

Sue Bird can start making plans to visit London this summer. On Friday, USA Basketball announced that the Seattle Storm point guard is one of 11 players on the 2012 U.S. Women's Olympic Team that will go for a fifth consecutive gold medal during the London Olympics.

Since she has served as the U.S. National Team's starting point guard dating back to the 2006 FIBA World Championship, a span that includes running the show for the gold-medal-winning 2008 Olympic Team, Bird's selection came as no surprise. Still, being a part of her third Olympic team is meaningful for Bird.

Sue Bird receives her gold medal in Beijing.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

Bird is going for her third Olympic gold medal this summer.

"There is no greater honor than being selected to represent your country at the highest level," she said. "I do think that as you get older your reasons may be different but the excitement level never changes."

Choosing the rest of the Olympic roster was slightly more challenging. USA Basketball's selection committee had the opportunity to choose among WNBA All-Stars. Ultimately, the 11 players that were chosen for the team included nine members of the U.S. roster that won the FIBA World Championship in 2010. To them have been added Seimone Augustus and Candace Parker, who were both members of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team but battled injuries in 2010. One final spot on the roster will be chosen at a later date.

The group the USA will take to London includes seven past gold medalists. Bird, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi will all be going for their third gold medals, having previously won with the U.S. in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008. As the most experienced members of the team in international play, they will serve as leaders.

"As you start looking at your team and you look at the core, your foundation of the team, Sue, Diana and Tamika are really at the core," said U.S. Head Coach Geno Auriemma. "They are the backbone of the team. They are the ones who have been there the longest. They have gone through it from their youngest days when they were rookies, trying to make their way in USA Basketball at the Olympic level to now they're the seasoned veterans.

"We're going to rely an awful lot on them for their leadership and their experience. They're three of the most competitive human beings I've ever met. I feel really, really good about those three."

The leadership role is one Bird embraces, based on the experiences that have prepared her to lead.

"My role with the national team has been a maturation process in and of itself," she said. "As each year passed I became more experienced and more able to help lead this team. Now I feel like a true veteran, which is how I viewed Dawn Staley in 2002 and 2004. I also became much more comfortable, both on and off the court, which has helped me as well."

Should the U.S. women win gold, Bird as well as Catchings and Taurasi would join an elite group of players who have earned at least three gold medals as part of the U.S. Women's Olympic Team. Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie each won four gold medals, while Staley, Sheryl Swoopes and the Storm's Katie Smith have won three apiece.

Bird is also etching her name in the record books for Olympic competition. With 37 career assists, she will head to London fifth among U.S. women in the category with a chance to move up. What has made the Women's National Team so successful, however, is that players focus on team goals rather than individual glory.

"The best thing about USA Basketball is you're taking the 12 best players in the U.S., possibly the world at times, and it's never an issue with ego," said Bird. "Nobody cares about points, rebounds, leading the team in this or that category. It's not about that at all. It's about one thing and that's winning gold medals. It's easy to be a part of that and that's why the success is there."

The meaning of the Olympics goes beyond just wins and losses, and even beyond gold medals. That's why, even if it was expected, Bird's selection to the Olympic Team is so important.

"You are picked out as one of the best in your sport and chosen to represent your country against every other country's best," Bird said. "The Olympics goes beyond sport and it's a gift to be a part of them. "

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