U of S women's basketball coach headed to Olympics
It was a Canada Day to remember for the national women’s basketball team, but there are bound to be plenty more big moments later this month as they head to London for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
The national team qualified in Ankara, Turkey in the last possible birth on the last possible day, which just happened to be Canada Day.
Lisa Thomaidis, women's basketball coach for the University of Saskatchewan, has been the assistant coach for the Canadian national team since 2001, along with head coach Allison McNeil and assistant coach Mike McNeill.
She joined the coaching staff a year after the team’s last Olympic
appearance, so this summer will be her first experience with the
“It’s a dream come true. It’s the pinnacle of our sport so it’s what everyone strives to maybe someday get to. For me, it’s just an amazing thing to even think about and it’s been a little bit surreal,” said Thomaidis.
“The last time (Canada) was there was in 2000 and you know it’s been a long hard uphill battle to get this group back to this stage,” said Thomaidis.
She said she didn’t even let herself think about going to London until the team qualified.
“Now that we have qualified, things are starting to hit home a little bit. It’s been a whirlwind the last 48 hours with just what’s going on in terms of preparation and all the logistics involved with it,” said Thomaidis.
She said that there were some close calls in Turkey when the team was nearly knocked out of qualifying. Canada lost by three to Croatia in the quarter final, which meant they had to play two extra days.
That moment was a real heartbreaker for Thomaidis, as Canada would have to win two games in a row, one of them against Argentina who had defeated the team last year in the first qualifier. Canada went on to beat both teams.
The win over Japan on Canada Day pushed them through to qualify for the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
Thomaidis said there wasn’t much time to celebrate as immediately after their qualifying game there was drug testing, meetings with media and an early morning bus ride to the airport.
“But needless to say we certainly didn’t all go to bed at 11 at night. We definitely had a good chance to celebrate and really relish the moment and take it all in,” said Thomaidis.
She said there are definitely some big challenges in pulling a team together in Canada - citing a lack of a domestic professional league as Canada’s biggest disadvantage.
“Here unfortunately our sports development model for team sports, it ends after university so you have 22-year-olds who are done unless they want to go overseas and play professionally. We don’t continue to have that pool of athlete into their 20s and 30s,” said Thomaidis.
All of the players on this year’s national team are professionals aged 19 to 32. The tallest player on the team is Saskatoon product Krista Phillips standing at 6’6”.
Thomaidis said Canada’s team will be the underdogs in every game this summer.
“This team has been to a couple of world championships in the last number of years and the PanAm games, but I mean the Olympics are a whole different level. It’s what everyone dreams about going to and participating in and I’m just super proud of this team to be able to finally have that chance to represent Canada on that kind of stage,” said Thomaidis.
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