Notes + Full Quotes From the Canadian National Women’s Team Announcement & Open Practice.
July 25, 2016 § 2 Comments
In case you missed it, Team Canada announced their 12 player roster which is now on their website and will head to the US pretty soon to play some exhibition games before heading to the Olympics games. Last Friday, the Canadian National Women’s Team had media availability and I got the chance to speak to some players as well as the head coach. I also have a feature on Excelle Sports which should be out tomorrow, so stay tuned!
Below, I’ve transcribed the full quotes from the players I interviewed (Lizanne Murphy, Natalie Achonwa, Kia Nurse, Miranda Ayim & the head coach Lisa Thomaidis) on their thoughts on Rio, on Natalie Achonwa and more.
Natalie Achonwa – Center, Canada Olympic Team
On how different these Olympics are compared to the first time they qualified (2012)
“The first time we were one of the last teams to qualify and it was last minute on Canada Day, so it was right before we were trying to get to London and so this time, qualifying this far in advance, we had time to prepare and not just even last year, and it gives you a lot more time to get mentally ready as well as physically on the court and it allows you to eliminate some distractions as well knowing what to expect in the Village and not being so awestruck by it all. It allows you to prepare for the whirlwind of the Olympics.”
On the Olympic break the WNBA scheduled this year.
“Last summer was more hectic than this summer, because I was taking unplanned breaks, leaving for the Pan Am games and for the FIBA Americas. This time, this summer, it’s a lot easier as the Olympic break is built into the WNBA schedule because the US is in it and the nice Olympic chunk is taken out of our season which is really nice because it virtually creates a divide between when I’m with the Indiana Fever and when I’m with Canada Basketball. Although I’m always training for the Olympics and I’m always training to represent my country, it allows me to mentally take off my Indiana Fever hat and really focus on the events of Canada Basketball.”
On what advice she would give to young star Kia Nurse on her first Olympic experience.
“Considering this is our second time around for most of us, I think I would tell Kia to enjoy the games, to soak in the atmosphere, but the vets will also be in her ear, reminding her to stay focused as it is easy to get distracted from all the events that occur in the Olympic village.”
Her thoughts on the media blackout from the Fever and the black lives matter movement(*note – this was before the league rescinded the fines)
“I was really proud of our league and our players union to be able to take a stand and to
be passionate about it, it’s unfortunate that the league felt that they needed to fine us
because of support of other events and the players invested in and believed in and they
weren’t backing us, so it was kind of upsetting but at the same time, I’m really proud of
the players that they took a stand and believed in and didn’t let anyone alter that.”
Lizanne Murphy – Forward, Canadian Olympic Team
Her thoughts on the Olympics
“We have a chance to do something really great here, something special, going out and doing it, but I think we can do it. I’m just excited for the games, that’s really, we’ve been preparing for this for four years, so it’s like finally here, and I can’t wait.”
Her thoughts on the chance Canada can earn a medal
So many things are out of your control. It all depends on who you face through the
quarter finals. You first have to get out of our pool which is a tough pool because we are in the same group as the US then you have to play some more playoff type games, so honestly it’s difficult for me to make a prediction but I will say that if we play well, we have a good shot.”
On team mate Natalie Achonwa’s ability to go back and forth between the WNBA and the Olympic Team.
“Props to her. She’s such a proud Canadian and special. Nat is one of my closest friends on the team, she really loves playing for Team Canada, it’s a testament to her schedule. This is not easy to do what she does and it’s not going to be difficult to integrate her as she’s been on the team for so long (six to seven years) and she’s a very experienced player even though she’s very young.”
Her injury status update (*she was out with an ACL injury before)
“I feel good. Really good. I was ready to go before, like in May, even though it hadn’t been a full year since I went down with the injury. I’m healthy and I’m been waiting for the Olympics, so I’m excited.”
Kia Nurse – guard, Canadian Olympic Team
Thoughts on the Olympics
“It’s a whirlwind when I think about it. The fact that I’m going to be at one which is really weird to me, it’s a dream come true obviously, it’s something you aspire to do, to be there and to have this experience is amazing.”
What Geno Auriemma has said to her
“Haha, we’ve talked about it a little bit. He just told me to soak it in, take in the whole experience, enjoy it and use this summer to continue to get better basketball wise, learn new things and that’s it.”
Update on her injury status (*she had surgery a couple of weeks prior)
“I’m good to move forward now, I’m practicing, I’m moving around alot, the time line is exactly where it was supposed to be, so fortunate it all went well.”
Her thoughts on Natalie Achonwa going back and forth.
“I think it’s amazing. Obviously, the WNBA is a great high level for us to have athletes at and we’ve had a surge of Canadians going to the WNBA recently and it’s just a testament to hard she’s worked, everything she’s doing there and were so proud of her.”
Her thoughts on Canada getting a medal
“Well, were going in with the mindset of getting a medal, the colour at this point is up in the air. You obviously want the gold, but a medal at this point the medal is something were going for and I think we have the potential to go do it.”
Miranda Ayim – Forward, Canadian Olympic Team
Thoughts on the Olympics.
“We are very excited to go to the Olympics, it’s amazing how fast the time flies, these next couple of weeks are going to go by really fast leading up to the Olympics. Looking forward to it and I think were going to make a good mark. Where very focused, what were focused now is the first game against China and we just played three games against China, so were looking forward to stepping on the court and getting back to business, personally.”
Thoughts on the US exhibition tour next week(*this week)
“It’s going to be a great competition, because were playing against great teams. The top three teams in the world, and that’s how we want to sharpen our skills against so the US, France, Australia in the tournament earlier, and we played the US earlier this year as well so this will be a great tune up.”
Thoughts on Natalie Achonwa going back and forth between the WNBA and the Olympic Team
“Well, Natalie has been with us for years, you know, even if she’s in and out, but obviously she still has the history with us, the bond among all the team mates, it’s like a family, so when she comes back on the court, steps on the floor, it’s like she never left.”
Thoughts on Kia Nurse
“Obviously, I have no worries about it. She’s back practicing with us, so I know she’s ready to go.”
Head Coach Lisa Thomaidis
Her thoughts on Natalie Achonwa going back and forth between the WNBA and the Olympic Team
“Natalie’s been a part of our program for several years now, so this is nothing for her. You know, were happy to have her back, she’s had such a long season in the WNBA, it’s a grind,
playing every few days, so were just happy she’s with us now and utilizing her time as
best as we can so she can get up to speed on what we are doing.”
Natalie Achonwa’s role on Team Canada
“Nat has tremendous basketball IQ, she’s an experienced player, she can bring a lot of energy, she can really quarter back our back line for the center position and she plays a key role in our offense so we really look to her to bring a spark and energy, she could really play a number of different roles, and she’s a leader.”
Thoughts on Kia Nurse
“Kia’s a great player, were glad to have her back and we anticipate on having her be back to the player she was for us last year.”
Her success at UCONN and how that translates to the National Team
“She’s been a tremendous player for the last few years with us, so we expect the same thing from her. She’s a tremendous defensive player, who can also get it done on the offensive end and she’s one of our go to players.”
Thoughts on her team at Rio
“Just seeing how well our team will perform. Last year, we improved in key areas and I anticipate that the same thing will happen in these Olympics. We haven’t played our best yet, so it will be a fun test to see what level this team will play at in Rio”
Thoughts on a medal
“Too many uncontrollable factors. I can’t say, there’s such a great pool with so many great teams, so there’s going to be alot of competition for a medal for sure.”