USA Women March Toward Tip-Off At 2015 Pan American Games
The Opening Ceremonies for the 2015 Pan American Games on July 10 saw the 12 members of the U.S. women’s basketball team and their coaches walk into the Pan Am Dome (also known as the Rogers Centre) as a part of a U.S. delegation that lists a total of 625 athletes.
Entering a sold-out stadium of 45,000 spectators is a powerful moment for any athlete, including 5-foot-11 USA guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (Maryland/Aliquippa, Pa.), who is playing on her first USA Basketball team.
“It was a great experience,” Walker-Kimbrough said. “I was just soaking it all in. This is my first time, and it’s a great opportunity.
“It was surreal seeing all the different (athletes) here to compete and represent their own country. They are here doing the same thing that we are. They want to win for their country.
“Afterwards, to look at my phone and see everyone saying, ‘congratulations,’ and, ‘We saw you on TV,’ it’s just a great honor.”
USA guard, three-time NCAA champion and two-time USA Basketball gold medalist Moriah Jefferson (Connecticut/Glenn Heights, Texas) had an emotional reaction as well.
“I got goose bumps walking through the tunnel,” Jefferson said. “You couldn’t wait to get into the stadium. We came out, and everybody was cheering. It was just really exciting.”
Over 17 days of competition, the 2015 Pan American Games will see more than 6,000 athletes from 41 countries take part in 37 different sports, and similar to an Olympics, all of the participants are housed together in a “village.”
“The village is good,” said Jefferson. “The food is great, everyone is nice and the facilities are nice. I’m enjoying it.
“I’ve traded some pins – that was fun, but we haven’t done much yet.”
The USA’s journey to Toronto began at training camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado, back on July 3. After practicing twice nearly every day, the USA departed for Canada on July 9 and stayed in a hotel that night before settling into the village on July 10.
On July 11, the team took to the basketball court in Toronto for the first time, including the competition court at Ryerson University.
“Anytime you get a chance to get on the court and get some shots, that’s important.” Jefferson said. “It’s a really nice court. Training at altitude in Colorado (6,200’) helped, so we are feeling good going up and down.
“I think we had a great practice today, and we got a lot better.”
The USA will face senior national teams from throughout North, South and Central America and the Caribbean, opening against Brazil at 9 p.m. EDT on July 16.
“We are loving the moment,” said Walker-Kimbrough. “We are getting used to each other, and we are building relationships off the court. I think that will help us tremendously on the court.”
Before that first game in preliminary play, however, the USA will take on Brazil and Canada in scrimmages. All 12 players and the coaching staff know that the friendly contests are going to help the USA prepare, and it is likely they also would agree with Jefferson and say they are anxious to get started.
“We are ready to play,” said Jefferson. “As soon as you get here you are ready to play. But we know we have a couple more days, so we will get some good practices in and make sure we come out and do what we need to do.”
You can follow the U.S. women’s basketball team on Twitter at #USABwpag.
USA versus Brazil at 9 p.m. EDT on July 16
USA versus Dominican Republic at 9 p.m. EDT on July 17
USA versus Puerto Rico at 9 p.m. on July 18
Semifinals on July 19
Finals on July 20