Inconveniences? There have been a few as Teresa Gabriele has essentially put her life on hold to chase her Olympic dream.
Like getting up at 3:45 a.m. each day to work in the family bread business – the only line of employment she could find that would accommodate her other life as a member of Canada’s senior women’s basketball team.
Working primarily in the Abbotsford, B.C., area, Gabriele’s job entailed her having to meet the bread delivery trucks at various Costco and Wal-Mart outlets at the crack of dawn and then head inside to stock the shelves.
She would be finished by the time most people are groggily reaching for their second cup of coffee.
Instead of going home, Gabriele would head to the gym to train before returning to the stores in the afternoon to once again “shelve bread.” Then, it was home for dinner and an early bedtime, normally around 8 p.m.
“This is my dream and this is what I love to do,” is how Gabriele sums up her lifestyle.
Basketball is Gabriele’s bread and butter these days, as the 32-year-old will pilot the attack as the starting point guard for Canada at the Summer Olympics that begin in London on July 27.
Canada has not qualified a basketball team since the 2000 Sydney Games, where Gabriele enjoyed her first Olympic experience as a fresh-faced 20-year-old.
Gabriele is the only member of the current squad who went to Australia (where Canada finished 10th), and she was beginning to wonder if she would get another opportunity to perform on such a stage again.
“I’m thinking of retiring after this, so it’s a storybook ending for me,” Gabriele said Tuesday in Toronto, where the national team is conducting a final training camp before leaving for London on Friday.
With a set of wonky knees and a bad ankle (which last Monday required a cortisone shot), Gabriele is thankful for one more Olympic opportunity.
She says she still has vivid memories of the Sydney opening ceremonies and marching beside all the other Canadian participants.
“Honestly, you get goose bumps just by thinking of walking in with all the other athletes and looking up and there’s thousands and thousands of people and you’re representing you country. You’re wearing Canada on your chest,” she said. “You just have a huge sense of pride.”
Canada earned the final berth in the 12-team Olympic competition earlier this month in Turkey, where it needed to finish fifth or better to advance.
Canada did just that, defeating Japan 71-63 in the decisive game that was played, appropriately enough, on July 1.
Canada is lumped in with a tough group which includes European champion Russia and Australia, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist. Spain, France and Great Britain round out Canada’s group.
Canada’s first game is July 28 against Russia.
“I think we’re just kind of a blue-collar team that just brings their hard hats and works, and I think we’ll do that,” Canadian head coach Allison McNeill said. “And we’re going to enjoy the experience.”
Canada will play a exhibition game against the Czech Republic on July 26 in London, the only tune-up it will have prior to the main Olympic competition.
“There’s a tournament in France, but nobody wanted us anywhere because we didn’t know if we would be [at the Olympics],” McNeill said. “We couldn’t really book anything, it’s kind of a tough situation.”
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