Olympics Q&A: Yolanda Griffith and Sheryl Swoopes

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Kevin Pelton, storm.wnba.com | August 12, 2008
Like the rest of the world, members of the Seattle Storm are watching the Summer Olympics from Beijing. Two Storm players bring a very unique perspective, having been gold medalists for the U.S. Women's Olympic Team. Sheryl Swoopes is one of the most decorated players in international basketball. She is one of four U.S. players who have won at least three gold medals along with Teresa Edwards (four), Lisa Leslie (going for a fourth in Beijing) and Dawn Staley. Storm center Yolanda Griffith joined Swoopes on the USA roster for gold medals in 2000 in Sydney and 2004 in Athens. For both players, it's their first time in years watching at home instead of being a part of the Olympics. They talked about that and their memories with storm.wnba.com.

"Watching opening ceremonies, I just sat there and I really got tears in my eyes because I was thinking, 'I remember what that feels like.'"
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
What's it like watching from home?
Swoopes: This is my first time in a long time being able to sit at home and really watch the Olympics and take in everything and appreciate not just basketball but all the different sports, all the athletes who are there. Opening ceremonies, before then I didn't miss it at all. Watching opening ceremonies, I just sat there and I really got tears in my eyes because I was thinking, 'I remember what that feels like.' Then just thinking about the young players who are there and people who have never experienced that before. For some people it is, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I say to people all the time, just try to make the best of it or the most of it, because it's a very special time in your life.

I've enjoyed sitting at home. I watched swimming yesterday and gymnastics. I was sitting there cheering. I felt like I was in the arena - I was pulling for the U.S.

Is it possible to explain to someone what it's like to participate in the Olympics without having personally experienced it?
Swoopes: You try to explain it, but seriously to me it's kind of like in college winning a Final Four. You try to explain to people what it's like, but until you've experienced it for yourself, you really can't appreciate what it feels like. It's hard for me to sit here and explain to you, 'This is what the Olympic experience is like.' I remember my first one. I was young and my first one was in Atlanta, so I had family and friends and everybody there. I'm with Katrina McClain and Teresa Edwards and of course Dawn and Lisa Leslie and we were the young ones at the time.

I remember opening ceremonies, I was trying to take everything in. I had my camera in one hand and my video camera in the other hand, trying to record everything. To me, opening ceremonies, that's when I knew this was real. I'm here and we're really about to do this. You really can't explain it, but to sit at home for the first time and watch it, I got a chance to see a lot of things that when you're in it you can't appreciate because you don't get to see everything. I TiVoed it, so I could rewind. It did really make me appreciate everything that the Olympic experience has given me.

What stands out as highlights from your Olympic experience?
Griffith: For 2000, Australia, when we played, they pretty much told us they were going to whoop us up. I do remember blowing them out by 20. 2004, we were in the same situation against Australia again in the gold-medal game. Pee Wee (Johnson), myself, some of the key bench players came in and made a difference and helped us win another gold in 2004. Just to be a part of the USA, representing your country and winning two gold medals, is a great accomplishment in anyone's life. Right now, I'm excited about the Olympics - swimming, with Michael Phelps, who everybody's talking about. I saw a lot of the swimming last night and I saw a lot of the women win. We just swept in gold last night in swimming. I saw that in men's gymnastics we got bronze. Just to be a part of it watching on TV, it's good - seeing everybody excited and seeing all the fans excited. I'm glad I'm in the states.

Did you get a different perspective watching the opening ceremonies from home?
Opening ceremonies, it's very long but it's a great experience. To see the show they put on was amazing. It's a great show. I didn't see '96; 2000 was OK, 2004 was OK, but this one I think was by far the best opening ceremony.

Do you miss being there?
2000 was great. 2004 was also great. I had an opportunity to be on this team but chose not to because I didn't know how much longer I was going to play. I kind of took myself out of the equation. I only did that because, as you get older, you never know. I thought it was time for them to start getting younger post players ready for 2008. The decision I made was a great one. Now I'm just focused on helping this team win a championship.