Since Sue Bird is the most FIBA World Cup decorated athlete in history, and she’s been to almost as many Olympics as there are fingers on her hand, she knows a thing or two about pressure. Sue’s professional basketball career, which spans almost two decades now, has taught her to keep her cool. “Do I have times when I don’t? Yes,” the 39-year-old Seattle Storm forward told POPSUGAR. “But for the most part, I’m able to stay calm and still perform even when the pressure is on.”
Sue has seen this temper carry over into her day-to-day life. âMaybe there are difficult times, not just for me, but maybe for a family member or friend. I am able to be calm in these scenarios.â This ability to thrive under stress has always been with her, she said.
In preparation for Tokyo 2020, the US National Women’s Basketball Team, led by veterans like Sue and Diana Taurasi, is expected to compete in the Olympic qualifying tournament which will take place February 6-9 in Serbia. The team already have an Olympic spot due to their 2018 FIBA ââWorld Cup victory, but playing together to determine the right squad chosen from this group of women, Sue said, is the best possible scenario. This list will be released this spring.
“What we have decided to do, or what American basketball has decided to do, is use it as an opportunity to train with both former Olympians, those who have been there,” Sue said, “but also to have a good mix of players where it’s their first time, players where they’re really fighting to make it into the team.” For those younger or less experienced athletes, it’s good to throw them on fire, she explained, because that’s how it is at the Olympics. This is an effective way to see if they can handle the heat.
For these future Olympians for the first time on the national basketball team, Sue wants to remind them that they were selected for a reason. âThe strength of our team is actually our depth and our talent,â she said, so these newbies shouldn’t forget that and, at the same time, shouldn’t forget to carry their weight. Off the pitch, she added, you should enjoy the experience. As someone who has been fortunate enough to compete in four Olympic Games – and win the team gold medal four times – she knows the importance of soaking up those special moments. (Not to mention, Sue is dating another Olympian, football star Megan Rapinoe.)
Sue missed most of last season with knee surgery but says she is in perfect health and is using this training time with the national team to prepare more and become more sharpened ahead of the first half of the WNBA season and this summer’s Olympics. (Note: there is a break of about a month while these members of the national team are abroad). She will also focus on the days of recovery. âRecovery is just as important as the training day,â she added.
Another gold medal in Tokyo for these women would equal men’s seven Olympic winning streak – women have been undefeated since 1996. Just as she’s learned to do it throughout her career, Sue says the key is to keep it simple. It’s all hard work, but they shouldn’t get ahead of themselves. “The way we got here, the way we got to this place where we have six in a row, where Diana and I have four in a row, it’s not because we sat down and talked about trying to do it, âSue mentioned. “We took it one game at a time, one moment at a time, and we went out there and won.”
To learn more, visit teamusa.org. The Tokyo Olympics begin July 24 on NBC.