Olympic memories: Erin Phillips in 2008

By Tom Rietmann | August 6, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS -- The tattoo on Erin Phillips' right wrist is small, about the size of a half-dollar, but it holds enormous meaning for the Indiana Fever guard.

The tattoo shows the five interlocking Olympic rings. It represents the most memorable period of Phillips' athletic career.

Nothing makes Phillips swell with pride more than recalling the time she spent as a member of the Australian national basketball team that won a silver medal in the 2008 Olympic Games.

“It's the Olympics, the biggest sporting stage in the world,” Phillips said after a recent Fever practice. “Even now, sitting and watching it from my lounge room, from a different perspective, you realize even more how special it is.”

Phillips will be watching closely as the 2012 Games in London head into the final stages. She wants to see how her Fever teammate, Tamika Catchings, and the U.S. squad fare. And Phillips will closely follow the team from her native land of Australia, a team that's known as the Opals.

When Phillips was asked about memories that stand out from the 2008 Games in Beijing, she talked about living in the Olympic Village.

“It's then you realize you are among the best athletes -- not just in Australia, but in the whole world,” said Phillips, who was a 23-year-old point guard for the 2008 Australian club. “You wake up and you go to breakfast with all the different athletes from all the different countries, the best in the world in sprinting or high jump or gymnastics. They're all in one living area.”

Many athletes who compete in the Olympic Games have vivid recollections of the pomp and pageantry of the opening ceremonies. However, Phillips and the Australian women's team had to miss opening night because they were scheduled to play early the next morning.

The Australians went on to produce a strong showing in 2008, losing to the U.S. in the gold medal game. Phillips averaged 5.3 minutes in six appearances, collecting 11 points, nine rebounds and two assists. Tully Bevilaqua, who was a fan favorite in Indianapolis from 2005 to 2010, was one of Phillips' closest friends on the Australian team and someone she admired greatly.

Phillips has framed her one-piece Opals uniform from the 2008 Games. She also has framed and displayed a replica of her silver medal, choosing to keep the real thing put away for safekeeping.

But the real medal comes out when Phillips' nieces or nephew want to see it. The Fever guard also has been known to accompany her young relatives to show-and-tell sessions at their Australian schools, with the silver medal being a top attraction.

“I think it's good for kids to be able to touch the real medal, not a replica,” Phillips said.

From her time in Beijing, Phillips remembers the pressure that each team faced in Olympic competition.

“It's a very intense two weeks,” she said. “It's not like a season, where you can drop a game here or a game there and you can maybe make up for it. It's the pool round, and then it's finals. There's no relax time. You're always focused on one game and then the next. At the end of it, you're exhausted. Mentally, you are drained.”

But Phillips hopes to try it again at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

“I'm 27 now,” she said, “and my next goal probably will be to be in (Rio de Janeiro) in four years. To play in two Olympics would be really special.

“One of the biggest things we get back from being athletes are the memories and experiences. Something like the Olympics -- you can ask Tamika (Catchings, who is going for her third gold medal) -- it's above and beyond anything you can imagine. It's the biggest thing in the world.”