Recovered from COVID-19, Stefanie Dolson Chases Olympic Dreams
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit everyone in different ways. Some have had only to endure the inconvenience of community lockdowns. Others have lost multiple family members to the virus, or had their lives turned upside down through the loss of jobs.
For Stefanie Dolson — a two-time WNBA All-Star and key member of the USA Basketball program — it was a bit more of a roller-coaster ride.
In March 2020, just as the coronavirus was becoming part of our everyday lives, Dolson and other family members tested positive.
“It was hard,” Dolson said. “When I got it and then my whole family got it, we got it right in the beginning. We got it literally right after the lockdown started, so we were getting the symptoms as the world was learning about symptoms, or we were getting symptoms before people knew about certain symptoms. So it was hard, but at the same time, my whole family kind of made it out, and we are all healthy now and doing well.”
One year later, the former Connecticut star is back to pursuing her dream on multiple fronts. Her priority is helping the USA Basketball Women’s 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Team prepare for the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament that will be played May 26-30 in Graz, Austria. The U.S. must finish as one of the top three teams to advance to Tokyo, where 3x3 will make its Olympic debut. She also is part of the five-on-five USA Women’s National Team player pool.
Dolson said her symptoms included a fever, “really bad” body aches, chills and fatigue. She was laid up at home and would be exhausted by simple tasks, such as going up or down the stairs. With her and other family members becoming ill so early in the pandemic — at a time when information was still sketchy — her concern level was heightened.
“I was just scared, honestly,” said Dolson, 29. “My mom, she got it the worst in our family, and she ended up going to the hospital. So, I was scared for her, scared for my dad because of how much he wanted to be there with her in the hospital but couldn’t. And then to seeing the world kind of act certain ways because it was summertime and stuff. It was definitely hard to see how people were treating the situation and were kind of treating it lightly. But overall, I’m just happy that my family was able to make it out, because I know a lot were not — people died from it.”
Once her symptoms passed, Dolson was able to return to focus on basketball, but she had to slowly ramp up her training.
“I didn’t have a court available to me,” Dolson said. “My family built a whole gym in our basement with the mats, weights and everything, so I could do some type of weightlifting and try to do as many cardio video workouts as I could.”
Hampered by a nagging foot injury, Dolson was limited to 15 games with the WNBA’s Chicago Sky in the 22-game pandemic-reduced regular season. Disappointed by her performance and availability, she said she has trimmed almost 30 pounds off her 6-foot-5 frame. The Sky listed her weight as 231 pounds last season.
As she gets set for a fifth season with the Sky and eighth in the WNBA, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 draft by the Washington Mystics is looking to also add to her USA Basketball résumé. Already with gold medals from the 2019 FIBA AmeriCup, 2011 FIBA U19 World Cup and 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, Dolson will team up with Allisha Gray, Kelsey Plum and Katie Lou Samuelson on the 3x3 team trying to qualify for Tokyo.
“Going to the Olympics for me personally has always been a dream since I was a kid,” said Dolson, who attended Minisink Valley High School in Slate Hill, New York. “The opportunity to get there is at this qualifying tournament. We’ve been putting in a lot of work, and I’m just excited to get there.”
Dolson hasn’t played 3x3 in a FIBA competition, but after USA Basketball training camps leading up to the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament, she said this group is on the same page and ready to make history for USA Basketball.
“We have really good chemistry,” Dolson said. “Being able to have these camps was important to us and have been so crucial for us to be able to play with each other and just learn how to work off of each other, work with each other. So, we’ve built a lot of chemistry in the last couple months and I think we’re definitely ready for the tournament.”