Looking back on it, perhaps Teresa Edwards viewed her visit to Colorado Springs last week as a dress rehearsal.
Edwards, the most decorated women's basketball player in U.S. history with four gold medals and a bronze (more on that shortly) between 1984 and 2000, came here as the headlining guest of the Colorado Springs Sports Corp.'s annual Olympic Family Luncheon. And Edwards, never known for being reserved, had plenty to say in sharing the stage with U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun and longtime former USOC spokesman Mike Moran.
Actually, Edwards' portion came across like a potential pep talk, and perhaps it was, since she will serve as the ceremonial leader of America's delegation to the 2012 Summer Olympics, just two months away. In fact, you gotta love it when somebody like Edwards, speaking to more than 500 appreciative listeners (about the same number as the U.S. Olympic team), starts talking in language that athletes use and understand. Such as:
"Our [U.S. women's] team in 1996 was pivotal to where the women's game is today. We trained for a year, and we were kinda pissed about what happened in 1992."
Those Summer Games in Atlanta were special to Edwards for many reasons. She's a Georgia native and played college ball at the University of Georgia. She also took the competitors' oath at the Atlanta opening ceremony on behalf of all the world's athletes, on her 32nd birthday. Then the scrappy 5-foot-11 guard led the Americans to their third women's basketball gold, avenging their bronze disappointment of 1992 at Barcelona.
"I don't want to lose a game to anyone, especially against foreign countries."
That came in reference to the U.S. women's first breakthrough victory against the powerful Soviet Union at the 1986 Goodwill Games in Moscow, ending the Soviet women's astounding 28-year, 152-game winning streak in international competition. But she also talked about being honored to have the singular distinction of being the youngest player (at 20 in 1984) and the oldest player (at 36 in 2000) to earn Olympic gold in women's basketball.
"When they asked me [to be chef de mission, which means leader of the U.S. team], I said, 'That's heavy. That's a lot. What is it?'"
Blackmun had mentioned that upon learning more, Edwards also took very little time to decide on the invitation, saying, "Let me think about it ... yes."
"I think there's some really strong legs I'm standing on — not just the USOC, but America."
That comment came after Moran had rattled off all the duties that come with heading the U.S. delegation, including marching in with the American team at the opening ceremony.
"We had some pressure to win in 1984 after what happened in 1980. I reiterate, don't piss us off. ... We're still kicking the boys' butts."
Edwards was referring to the bitter aftertaste following the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow, and responding to the fact that the 1980 team had lost to a Colorado Springs boys team, but how that changed in 1984 and beyond.
Actually, it's a safe bet that we won't be hearing words quite that colorful again from Edwards, who probably has been counseled on the need to tone down the trash talk — at least in public. But you get the idea that Edwards sees her role as being "motivator in chief" for all U.S. athletes.
And though she's 47 now, you get the distinct impression that Edwards still wishes she could have one more chance. Even after her final Olympics in 2000 at Sydney, she played two years (2003 and 2004) in the Women's National Basketball Association, and just last year she stepped in as interim head coach for the WNBA's Tulsa Shock. Edwards clearly isn't done with sports in some capacity.
"I hope this experience [with the Olympic team] is a beginning, not an ending," Edwards said, eloquent as always. "Just being part of the Olympics ... it's something that calls you back. I can't find anything else to compare to it. I'm always seeking higher grounds — that's why I chased basketball into my 40s."
It's also why Teresa Edwards will never stop chasing her dreams.
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