Huskies on their way to Tokyo for Summer Games to represent Six Nations

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When athletes from around the world converge on Tokyo this week to compete in the XXXII Olympiad, the blue and white UConn will be well represented among them.

Sophomore Aaliyah Edwards, named sixth Big East Woman of the Year 2020-2021 in basketball, joins nine alumni of UConn women’s basketball (including an assistant coach), two of men’s basketball, two of field hockey and one from women’s football representing six nations at the Summer Olympics starting today. UConn will also be represented by its second Paralympic athlete in school history, and former student Sue Bird will be one of two athletes to serve as the flag bearer for the United States at the opening ceremony. Friday July 23 – the first time two competitors have been chosen to lead Team USA to the Games.

Edwards will join Kia Nurse, a WNBA star with the New York Liberty and a member of the Huskies teams for the 2015 and 2015 NCAA Championships, as a member of Canada’s National Women’s Basketball Team. Nurse will be one of Tokyo’s most experienced international competitors. Edwards is Canada’s youngest team member.

Gabby Williams, 2016-17 women’s basketball All-American and two-time NCAA champion, will be a member of the France national team as she holds dual citizenship in the United States and France.

Cécile Sophie Pieper, who earned a master’s degree in educational psychology as a senior red shirt, will play for Germany again and try to win another Olympic medal to join the bronze she won in field hockey during the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. Roisin Upton, a member of the Huskies teams for the 2013 and 2014 NCAA Championships, competes as a member of the Irish National Field Hockey Team.

Niels Giffey, who played for the Huskies from 2010 to 2014, won two NCAA championships as a member of the UConn team, in 2011 and 2014. Having recently signed a contract to play in the Lithuanian Basketball League. ball, Giffey will represent his native Germany in the Olympic games. Gavin Edwards, a 6-9 forward who played UConn from 2006-2010, was awarded the only ‘naturalized’ player spot on the Japanese men’s basketball team, which was given an automatic spot as host nation. . Edwards has spent the last eight seasons playing professionally in Japan, the last four with B League champion Chiba Jets.

Stephanie Labbé, who played women’s soccer for UConn from 2005 to 2008, will compete in her second Olympics as Canada’s goaltender, after helping that nation win a bronze medal at the 2016 Games.

UConn will be represented at the Paralympic Games by Amy Dixon, 1989 graduate in pharmacy and equine business management. Originally from Brookfield, she will be part of the United States Paratriathlon team. At the age of 22, Dixon began to lose his eyesight due to a rare autoimmune disease. This has slowly progressed over time and she currently has 98% vision loss.

Once again, the Huskies dominate the United States Women’s National Basketball Team, both in the Olympic five-on-five tournament and at the start of the 3 × 3 tournament.

Former Huskies teammates Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm and Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury will try to win a record fifth Olympic gold medal with US veterans Tina Charles of the Washington Mystics (2012, 2015 Olympic gold) and Breanna Stewart of the Storm ( 2016 Olympic Gold), as well as Olympic rookie Napheesa Collier of Minnesota Lynx. Jennifer Rizzotti, president of the Connecticut Sun and longtime U.S. women’s basketball coach, is assistant head coach Dawn Staley of the University of South Carolina, a three-time Olympic gold medalist.

UConn graduates Sue Bird (left) and Diana Taurasi, pictured here with the gold medals they won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, will once again represent the United States at the Summer Games, this year in Tokyo. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant / NBAE via Getty Images)

Stefanie Dolson of Chicago Sky competes in the first 3 × 3 Olympic tournament with Allisha Gray of the Dallas Wings and Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young of the Las Vegas Aces. The coach of the USA 3 × 3 team is Kara Lawson, Duke University head coach and two-time Olympic gold medalist. Former Husky Katie Lou Samuelson was initially selected for the 3X3 team but had to step down due to COVID protocols.

During a media session on Zoom in June, Bird reflected on the importance of participating in the Olympics by recalling his return to the United States after winning his first Olympic gold medal at the Athens Games in 2004. After When the team landed in New York, she took a flight to Seattle and a flight attendant who recognized her asked her if she had her gold medal.

“She asked if the drivers could see it,” said Bird, four-time WNBA champion and 12-time All Star. “Before I knew it, this gold medal, literally fresh out of Athens, was happening in the aisles of this plane. People just want to see it. They want him to touch it. It was then that I realized that it had an impact on Americans and people around the world and that it had significant meaning behind it. You represent all of these people.

Earlier this week, Bird was chosen, along with baseball player Eddy Alvarez, by the athletes of the United States team to lead the United States delegation during the opening ceremonies. In previous years, only one athlete had the honor of being a flag bearer, but the policy was changed in 2020 to promote gender parity.

“It is an incredible honor to be chosen as the flag bearer for the American team,” Bird said in a statement. “I know what that means, because I got to see Dawn Staley go through this when she was selected in 2004. It is an honor that is greater than when you were selected by your fellow athletes from the US team to represent the whole delegation, and it will last forever.

Taurasi, who became the first WNBA player to score 9,000 points, was asked about the change team members need to make to move from being a competitor during the WNBA season to being a teammate in Tokyo.

“It’s really an amazing situation where we are competing against each other and then just like that you are all on the same team working towards the same goal,” said Taurasi, three-time WNBA champion and 10-time All Star. . . “We had the ability to make that change so quickly when we get together with the national team because we know it’s just bigger than us. It really is a collective effort to win a gold medal. We talk about it all the time. No one remembers who is the best rebounder, the top scorer. Nobody really cares. Everyone is just worried about going there, competing, playing at the top level and winning a gold medal. This mentality is just instilled in, from you at a young age when we were in USA Basketball.

In 2016, Collier was the only varsity athlete remaining in the planned pool of players for the Rio de Janeiro Games (Samuelson was in the pool but injured) when the team was selected. Dolson was also in the player pool. Both will compete in their first Olympics.

“It’s great to see how many UConn players are on the team and how many have been in USA Basketball,” Collier told reporters. “I think this is a huge tip of the hat to the UConn staff, the coach (Geno Auriemma), the CD (Chris Dailey) and everyone who was there. They obviously did a great job. I am truly honored to be a part of this legacy.

Dolson told UConn Today that entering the inaugural 3 × 3 competition as an Olympian for the first time and being coached by Lawson, her former teammate with the Washington Mystics, would improve the experience for her.

“This is an opportunity I have dreamed of going to the Olympics all my life,” said Dolson. “Playing with Kara was great. But now that she can be coached by it, she’s so smart about the 3 × 3 and the strategy behind it. Working with 3 × 3 is even more special because it’s his first time competing in the Olympics, so I’m excited.

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