When I woke up yesterday morning I didn’t realize the opportunity that awaited me. I did not comprehend who I would be meeting that day and where I was headed. When I was assigned and granted access to cover the USA Women’s basketball practice yesterday, August 4th, I was extremely excited, but it still had not hit me yet.
We trucked from Guilford all the way to East London University, it took about an hour and 20 minutes. London is so huge! The train system is actually a very efficient way to travel. Once we walked into the media press waiting room we were surrounded by journalists, some from NBC London and even some from New York City. It was a little unreal that I was about be a junior in college and there I was, preparing to come face to face with an olympian, also women that I’ve idolized since I was a young basketball player. As Kayla, Jillian and I made our way to the gymnasium I began to feel nervousness take over my body. We waited in the waiting area for the women to finish practicing. I was blown away when we entered the gym, it was all themed USA and it was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. I saw all the journalists get out their equipment and begin to approach the ladies. I instantly felt like I was wasting time being star struck by all the tall, athletic women, but when I saw Candace Parker and Maya Moore, I was blown away. I have watched these women throughout their careers and use to pray every night that I’d wake up and be 6’6″ and get a call from a Tennessee or UConn, begging me to join the team. Obviously, that never happened, but I was as close to that dream as I have ever been when I saw them standing there.
I finally approached a player, Sylvia Fowles, a 6’6″ center for the U.S team. She was sitting down when I approached her so it wasn’t as intimidating. Before I could even spurt out my first name she says, “Hey girl, pop a squat!” She pulls a chair closer to hair and motions for me to sit. Her warm voice and welcoming smile really made all my nervousness melt away. I began the interview with laughs and a brief introduction of myself. Her story was amazing. She didn’t even want to be a basketball superstar, she wanted to be like the women in her family and run track. To read more about our interview and her story go check out my story at www.scrippslondon2012.com ! She talked about “the beauty of a woman” and how it pays to be humble and respectful as a basketball player. They are dominating the olympic games but they will not be celebrating until they have the title and their 5th gold. She was exceptional, as a player and especially as a human being. Speaking with her was such a pleasure, I appreciate how wonderful she was. I felt like I knew her for years after our interview.
After Sylvia helped me shake off my nerves, I was ready to get another interview. I really thought about trying to approach Geno, but as soon as that thought crossed my mind, there she came. Diana Taurasi. I had only seen her on TV and I had always wondered how we would match up in real life. She was obviously taller, standing at 6 foot and at least 30 pounds heavier than I was, but her body consisted of lean muscle only. She was built just like a basketball player should be. I knew it was now or never. Kayla sort of gave me a shove and said, “What are you doing?! Get over there!” So I did. I approached my childhood hero and began to introduce myself. “Hi Diana!!” I probably sounded so stupid but I began to remember the mellow, happy feelings I got when I talked to Sylvia. I tried to pretend it was the same thing. Diana didn’t make me feel as at home, but she was very sweet and willing to speak with me. She shook my hand with a smile and we began. I asked her numerous things and told her I was a huge fan and that I had been forever. I remember watching her dominate the game when she was at UConn. She is making her third appearance at the Olympics and you could tell she was prepared mentally and physically, yet again. She gave me some great quotes, my favorites were what she said about her opponents. She said basketball was all about respect, win or lose. I couldn’t have agreed more. Basketball is about so much more than just winning or losing, I have learned this throughout my own time spent playing the game. I admired how real Diana was. She said it is great to have Geno as her coach, since he was previously at UConn as well. Finally, I wrapped up the interview and thanked her profusely. As I said good luck, she said “Thanks, I really appreciate it Melissa.” Then as soon as I moved out of the way another herd of journalists took my place and she began the process again.
I kept telling everyone that I was never washing my hand again..excessive I know.
Then I saw Debbie Antonelli there! I introduced myself as the fellow Bobcat who had been hounding her on the phone to meet up in London. She remembered me and gave me a big hug. I was really excited when she introduced me to some of her colleagues and proceeded to ask when we could meet this week. I told her anytime, any place, I will be there! She was very sweet. I really want to just pick her brain and learn about her journey to where she is in her career now. There is so much you could learn from a women like Debbie. The whole USA basketball team ran up to her and hugged her. How many journalists can say that? I will be looking forward to meeting with her this week!
This was probably the highlight of my trip so far. Some journalists work their entire career to be able to go to the olympics and interview athletes, I already have. It was an experience I would not have traded for the world. I know what I want to do for the rest of my life. This trip has really made me realize my potential as a journalist. It’s all I want to do.