Monday, May 21, 2012
Bruce, Canberra — This past week, an overstocked Australian Opals, the women’s national basketball team, prepared for the 2012 Olympic Games in London with a weeklong training camp at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) to be used to help narrow the nineteen member Opals squad down to the twelve that go to the Games, and provide players who rarely play together an extended period of time to play together in order to improve on court dynamics.
Camp started on Sunday, with players arriving from hometowns around Australia including Cairns, MacKay, Gladstone, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Melbourne.
Cayla Francis, Jenna O’Hea and Marianna Tolo at a practice on Wednesday.Image: Bidgee.
Kristen Veal at a practice on Wednesday.Image: Bidgee.
A strength and conditioning session on TuesdayImage: Bidgee.
A strength and conditioning session on TuesdayImage: LauraHale.
Lauren Jackson on MondayImage: Bidgee.
Marianna Tolo on MondayImage: Bidgee.
Carrie Graf on MondayImage: Bidgee.
Part 1 of a press conference at AIS with Carrie Graf, Lauren Jackson and Jenna O’Hea speakingVideo: Bidgee.
Part 2 of a press conference at AIS with Carrie Graf, Lauren Jackson and Jenna O’Hea speakingVideo: Bidgee.
Part 3 of a press conference at AIS with Carrie Graf, Lauren Jackson and Jenna O’Hea speakingVideo: Bidgee.
Part 4 of a press conference at AIS with Carrie Graf, Lauren Jackson and Jenna O’Hea speakingVideo: Bidgee.
The defending champions, the United States women’s national basketball team, are perceived as the Australian Opals’ main competitors. In the last three Olympic Games the Opals got silver medals. In each of these cases the United States got first place. Coach Carrie Graf said “thinking about the US too soon in inappropriate”, “Our focus is first and foremost, game by game winning our pool”. Amongst the Australian Opals’ competitors in the pool are Brazil, Russia, and Great Britain. Carrie Graf said Great Britain “will put up a fight on home turf” but there is a “world class [AIS] facility” and “world class medical support staff” supporting the team.
Australian Opal player Penny Taylor recently suffered injury from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, meaning she cannot play Olympics this year. In regards to the situation player Lauren Jackson, who is going into her fourth Olympics, said “you would never wish that upon anybody.” She says as a team they have to “move on, move through that” and “come together” to pick up their offence and defense. Despite the loss of one of their key players she says “we definitely have the talent there” and the team is all “on the same page.” She feels “pretty confident” and speaks of “very exciting” times ahead. Jenna O’Hea is going into her first Olympics with the team. She is still “pinching” herself and says she is taking it “day by day”.
A typical day at the camp might start with a 7.00am – 8.30am breakfast at the AIS Dining hall, before one and a half or two hours of court, gym, or swimming training. The middle of each day might consist of media meetings, medical checks, team meetings, and time to practise shooting. Around 12.00pm, the players meet to eat lunch and recover from the morning. The afternoon typically consists of more training, and some scrimmage games. Players usually finish around 7.00pm for dinner, and perhaps a massage.
The nineteen players in attendance this week at training camp were Suzy Batkovic, Abby Bishop, Elizabeth Cambage, Rohanee Cox, Cayla Francis, Kristi Harrower, Laura Hodges, Natalie Hurst, Lauren Jackson, Rachel Jarry, Kathleen MacLeod, Jenna O’Hea, Samantha Richards, Jennifer Screen, Belinda Snell, Marianna Tolo, Kristen Veal, Carly Wilson, and Hanna Zavecz. Basketball Australia has named fifteen players that are to attend the second phase of the camp: Suzy Batkovic, Abby Bishop, Elizabeth Cambage, Kristi Harrower, Laura Hodges, Lauren Jackson, Rachel Jarry, Kathleen MacLeod, Jenna O’Hea, Erin Phillips, Samantha Richards, Jennifer Screen, Belinda Snell, Marianna Tolo, and Hanna Zavecz.