Saturday, January 22

Golden Years: Sue Bird’s Olympic Team Pick, Diana Taurasi Reinforces 2021 as Best Time for Aging Athletes

When Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi won their first Olympic gold medals, there were no iPhones, Chipotle had more than 300 restaurants spread across the country, and Netflix still shipped DVDs of movies through the mail.

Oh my, here we go: Another story of some extraordinary “AARPthletes”.

Bird and Taurasi were named Monday by USA Basketball to the senior women’s national team that will attempt to win a seventh consecutive gold medal when the 2021 Olympics begin on July 23 in Tokyo. This will be the fifth Olympiad for Bird, who is 40, and for Taurasi, who turned 39 earlier this month.

In a year full of them, they represent two more examples of athletes extending their excellence far beyond what had been considered “retirement age” in the past, joining Super Bowl champion Tom Brady (43), the champion of PGA Phil Mickelson (50) and Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves (46), as well as soccer star Carli Lloyd, aiming to be part of his fourth Olympic team at 39 and sprinter Allyson Felix, who is She qualified for her fifth Olympics by finishing second in the 400-meter dash Sunday at the US Olympics Trials in Eugene, Oregon, and will turn 36 in November.

“It has been a tremendous journey, playing for so long and playing apart from the family, my friend. It means everything to us, ”Taurasi said during the announcement on Monday’s Today show. “I think sometimes you get stuck in the history of where this team has been, and we are trying to bring it to the next generation, the younger players. I think we are really focused on what we have to do to go home with the gold. “

Taurasi and Bird were teammates for two seasons in Connecticut, and in 2001-02, their team went 39-0 and captured the NCAA championship.

Given the overwhelming strength of the US women’s basketball program and the value of Bird’s experience, it could have been a valuable inclusion just to be available in emergencies and provide leadership during the tournament process and during practices and games. .

MORE: Lochte falls short on offer for 5th Olympics

However, that is not what it is. Bird remains among the top point guards in the WNBA, averaging 11.4 points on 52.3 percent shooting and 47.9 percent 3-point accuracy, as well as 6 assists per game, for the team that won the championship in the 2020 league and is 12-2 and first in the Western Conference in the 2021 season.

Taurasi, who can play both backcourt positions, averaged 18.7 points and 4.5 assists last season for the Phoenix Mercury. He has been limited to four games this season due to a chest injury, but he still averages 15.8 points and 3.8 assists.

“I think the most important thing is that the 12 players on the roster stay healthy,” said head coach Dawn Staley. “There are many players who are not on this list who have helped us along the way. This has been a three to four year process for us. But you need a great mix.

“When you have the main group of players who have played in multiple Olympics, you have to add a mix of young people. And the youth that we have added have certainly made it known that they want to be part of the Olympic team, and they put the work behind that.

“We don’t want to be the team that ends this streak.”

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