Each week leading up to the Olympic Games later this summer, we will introduce you to the WNBA players who will be representing their countries in Athens. From first-timers to veteran Olympians, the WNBA's best and brightest stars will be showcasing their skills on the world's biggest stage.

Tamika Catchings, United States
By Matt Wurst, WNBA.com
The Basics

Country United States
Hometown Duncanville, TX
WNBA Team Indiana Fever
Position Forward
Height 6-0
Weight 166 lbs.
Birthday July 21, 1979
Olympic exp. None

When Fever forward Tamika Catchings was forced to sit out the entire 2001 WNBA season with an injured knee, most people considered Fever her a long shot to make the 2002 FIBA World Championship team. But not only did she make the team, she started all nine games for the United States, averaging 10.0 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game, and earned a gold medal. Catchings became the first American woman to claim gold at both the junior and senior level World Championships.

But she did not stop there. In just over two WNBA seasons, Catchings has quickly become one of the elite players in the world. In 2003, she was the runner-up in balloting for the league's MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards and has been named First Team All-WNBA in each of her first two seasons. The 2002 WNBA Rookie of the Year is as potent from beyond the arc as she is in the paint. Just how to stop her is anyone's guess.

This past spring, Catchings helped lead the U.S. National Team to a 13-0 training record. She averaged 9.5 points per game and was second on the team with 72 rebounds. The 2001 University of Tennessee graduate further proved that she can do it all in tying for the team lead in blocks (8) and steals (24) while shooting 53.3 percent from the field and 48.0 percent from 3-point range. She was officially named to the U.S. National Team on October 8, 2003.

Catchings will be going to her first Olympics
(Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images)
Up close and Personal
What is your favorite Olympic sport other than basketball?
"Track and Field. It's the most exciting event there is."

Do you have a favorite Olympic memory growing up?
"I always love the end of the games and events when they get the gold medals, play the national anthem and everyone is standing on the podium, waving to the crowd as all of the flashed of the cameras are going off simultaneously. What a moment. That�s the dream-come-true moment. And I have imagined that for myself plenty of times. I imagine it being an uplifting, awe-inspiring moment. But I also worry about some silly stuff, like what if the medal doesn�t go over my head right."

What do the Olympics mean to you?
"It means a lot to a part of something like this, something so special. The World Championships was a great experience, but to be on the team going to Athens, it means a lot when you put the jersey on that represents the USA. I�m looking forward to the opening ceremonies that I�ve watched on television, so I think that�s going to be just an awesome experience."

How special is it to be representing the United States?
"I am really excited to be representing the U.S.. This is my first opportunity to be on the Olympic team. Going overseas is always a great opportunity to see what other countries are doing with their teams and to see where and how we measure up and compete with these teams."

Are you at all concerned about the security situation going overseas these days?
"You can�t go in worrying about things like security. On the one hand you do, but on the other hand, you don�t. We�re here to play basketball, we will have our own extra security traveling with us and we hope that we won�t have any problems. We�ll just go out and do what we can."

What are you most looking forward to about the entire experience?
"I have been told that the Opening ceremonies are something that I will always remember. I am very much looking forward to marching with my teammates and other American athletes representing our country. I have met some other athletes in other sports such as swimmers and some equestrian riders and everyone is so honored and proud to be on the Olympic teams."

Game on Game
Sue Bird, U.S. teammate:
"One of the best players in the league and the world. The best young player. As time goes on, I think she is going to become the best in the league. She never stops moving offensively, defensively, diving on loose balls, all over the place. It makes her really hard to guard and a very effective player on both sides of the court."

DeLisha Milton-Jones, U.S. teammate:
"Wow � she is just a bulldozer in china shop."

Lisa Leslie, U.S. teammate:
"When I think of her, I think of someone who is hungry for the ball. Wherever the ball is, that is where she is."

USA Basketball Statistics
2004 WNT 3/0
3- 11
2- 5
8- 10
2002 WC 9/ 9
33- 59
13- 27
11- 16
2002 WCX 4/ 4
15- 32
3- 10
1- 5
2002 WNT 1/ 1
4- 11
1- 3
0- 0

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