TOKYO – Eleven days ago, Jackie Young was getting her well-deserved summer burst in Florida. It was Saturday night, around 10:30. Near bedtime. Her phone rang.
“Random call,” I thought, and some people who like a rare vacation from a stressful job might leave the phone always ringing. Young decided to pick up. Because she did, she is an Olympic gold medalist.
Young, the rising WNBA star, traveled to Florida for a four-day vacation to relax during the league’s month-lengthy Olympic burst. That night, NBA director Jay Demings called and asked if she’d like to take a distinct considerate of trip. Before lengthy, Kara Lawson was on the line, too. Lawson is set to coach the inaugural 3×3 basketball team for Team USA in Tokyo starting…next week. The plane left on Monday. Do you want Young to join?
Demings and Lawson did not offer her a guaranteed place on the list of the four women that night. But earlier in the day, Katie Lou Samuelson, one of the original four, tested positive for COVID-19 The Olympic competition began in seven days. Cut the window difference to 6 1/2. The Japanese government has been requiring two negative COVID-19 tests on divide days as a condition of entry into the country. So, Leung was told, there are no guarantees…but if you want to be an Olympian, go home ASAP.
The next morning, I hopped on a plane back to Las Vegas, where I play for the WNBA Aces. By the time I landed, Team USA’s Olympic opener was 5 and a half days away. Kelsey Bloom, Alisha Gray, and Stephanie Dolson left the next morning. Young has been tested for COVID. I started packaging. I learned that Samuelson had already contracted COVID and was disqualified from the Olympics. Young felt it, but jumped at the chance to join the team. On Tuesday, it boarded a 12-hour commercial flight and landed in Tokyo on Wednesday, trailing travel, three days prior opening.
The next day, she officially became an Olympian at the final minute, she admitted: “I was definitely shocked”
Then there was work to attend. Mental key to the heart. Three-player basketball is still, at its core, basketball, but it’s a distinct, faster, and more physical version of the game. Many experienced 3×3 players say the learning curve is too steep. She played Young in 2019, and in a few training camps in 2020, but her elite experience has been minimal.
But there was no time to sit down, think, and plan to settle down in Tokyo. A two-match competition a day arrived on Saturday. Jill Biden appeared to watch. After a week of being on vacation, perhaps planning to watch the Olympics from home, Young was meeting the first lady.
Five days later, she’s diving for slack balls in an outdoor court and drifting off the border to preserve her possessions. She was rushing to hug her teammates at the free-throw line to celebrate the final 18-15 triumph over Russia. She was fist bumping by IOC President Thomas Bach.
Later, Bloom and Dolson clasped her hands and stepped onto the stage. Dolson put a gold medal around her neck. Made to take pictures with her. pretends to bite. I grabbed her with her left hand as she walked at night.
And thinking: “I was on vacation. And then my life changed like that,” she said with the touch of her finger. “And now I’m a gold medalist. It’s daft how things are.”