Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Argentina a Bit of Homecoming for Diana Taurasi
The Olympic champion’s parents are from Argentina and she briefly lived in the country as a girl.
It has been almost 20 years since Diana Taurasi has traveled to Argentina, where her parents met.
She will return there with the USA Basketball Women’s National Team for the FIBA Women’s Olympic Pre-Qualifying Americas Tournament in Bahía Blanca, Argentina, from Nov. 14-17, combining a little bit of family with basketball.
“To go back there and play now, it is definitely one of the biggest moments right now,” Taurasi said.
Her last trip to Argentina also came courtesy of USA Basketball, that time for the 2000 Junior World Championship Qualifying Tournament (U18) in Mar del Plata, with the Americans going 5-0 to win the gold. It was her first international appearance with USA Basketball.
This trip will be fairly short and will not have as much on-court significance as that one, but it does add another piece toward completing the puzzle of the 37-year-old Taurasi’s career.
Taurasi and fellow Connecticut alum Sue Bird helped inspire a year-long program with USA Basketball that they hope puts a bow on their already much-decorated careers. With an eye on winning a seventh straight Olympic gold medal for the U.S. and a fifth consecutive individually, Taurasi and Bird are part of a core of the Women’s National Team members participating in segments like the current one, where exhibition games against college teams precede an international tournament.
“I mean, what a great coincidence, to be able to do this tour and go back to Argentina,” said Taurasi, who also will return to the University of Connecticut with the national team to play the Huskies on Jan. 27. “It's still exciting for me to do something that I love to do. So, it just came at the right time.”
While the U.S. will play Brazil, Argentina and Colombia in the tournament, Taurasi will take time to explore and expects to reconnect with family. The team has a 12-hour layover in Buenos Aires, so the plan is to do some sightseeing in “one of the most beautiful (cities) in the world,” she said.
Once arriving in Bahía Blanca, Taurasi is hoping to meet up with some aunts and cousins, some of whom she hasn’t seen since she moved to Argentina for a year when she was 13 years old. Her parents, father Mario and mother Lili, met in a city about a five-hour drive away. Mario — who grew up in Italy in a city named Taurasi — moved to Argentina as a boy and became a professional soccer goalie. After getting married and moving to the Los Angeles area, they had Taurasi — she also has an older sister, Jessika — and raised the kids in a Spanish-speaking household. She still keeps her language skills intact by chatting with her parents on a daily basis.
“I am definitely (eager) to get there and to see everyone and to have everyone I'm seeing have a good experience. I'm excited,” she said.
With not a lot of time to see the region, Taurasi does plan on indulging on wine and empanadas. It is part of the Argentine lifestyle that she appreciates.
“Just a lot of great times,” Taurasi said of what she remembers of the country. “When you have a lot of family around, you know, the lifestyle is a little bit different. So, I have a lot of fond memories from living there with my family.”
One memory that does stick out for her was attending a sporting event, not surprising considering how big athletics was in her and her father’s life but also just the bonding time.
“I think there was one day where we actually went with the whole family to the biggest soccer rivalry in our city,” she said. “It was just a great day to see that atmosphere and to see our club team.”
The games on the exhibition tour before the Argentina trip were Taurasi’s first since Sept. 3 with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. She missed the rest of the season with a back injury and also recently battled an ailing hamstring, but she is getting into shape and helping the USA team stay committed to its goal of winning another Olympic gold.
“We're just excited to keep building on short-term goals,” she said. “Make sure we get better every day.”