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by Doug Feinberg
LONDON (AP)—Next up for Swin Cash and the U.S. Olympic women’s team in their quest for another gold medal is a matchup with Turkey
The Americans are looking for their fifth in a row, Cash has one from 2004—she once dreamed of winning three.
|MAKING AN IMPACT—United States forward Swin Cash, left, traps Croatia forward Ana Lelas while looking to pass during basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, July 28, in London. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
That was before back surgery forced her to miss the 2008 Beijing Games.
But Cash didn’t want her Olympic dreams or her career to end on a sour note.
“I was at a point in 2008 where I didn’t want to leave this game with people defining who I was as a player,” Cash said. “Going out with an injury is not what I wanted my legacy to be.”
A conversation with five-time Olympian and basketball great Teresa Edwards helped her refocus with one goal in mind—making it to London. Cash dedicated herself to getting healthy and now that the 32-year-old is back in the Olympics, she is ready to play whoever is next on the U.S. schedule.
“The last four years have been a humble journey for me. I’m just taking it all in,” said Cash, who played in China during the WNBA offseason and worked out whenever she could with her former strength and conditioning coach at Connecticut. “I came in with Dee (Diana Taurasi), Sue (Bird) and Catch (Tamika Catchings) and we all thought we’d win three medals.
“I took one off and now come back and it’s a different feeling.”
Cash, who is only one of six players to have won titles in college, the WNBA, the FIBA world championship and the Olympics, knows her role has changed. She also knows she can contribute and stays ready for whenever and however coach Geno Auriemma needs her.
Cash made an immediate impact in the team’s Olympic opener on Saturday, keying a U.S. run that helped the Americans pull away from Croatia. She didn’t get in the game until late in the third quarter. But she was ready when her former college coach subbed her in, converting a three-point play early in the fourth quarter that gave the U.S. some breathing room.
“She understands her role will be a little bit different on this team than the team she plays on,” Auriemma said. “Regardless of what team she’s on, she’s going to give you the same thing. When she comes into the game the tempo of the game is going to change, she knows that.”
Bird, Cash’s longtime teammate, has watched Cash battle her way back to the world stage. Bird played with her in college at Connecticut and in the WNBA with the Seattle Storm, winning titles in both places.
“It’s impressive, Swin’s been through a lot of injuries, obviously it started with her ACL and progressed into that back injury,” Bird said. “Swin is someone who always wants to prove herself no matter what. When she had those injuries she didn’t have a chance to and people were saying things. Maybe her career is on the down side of things.
“She was determined to get back on the court and be herself again.”
Now Cash has an opportunity to win a second Olympic gold medal.
The next obstacle for her and the U.S. is Turkey, which improved to 2-0 in pool play with a 61-57 victory over the Czech Republic. The Americans also will face China and the Czech Republic. The U.S. beat the Czechs in the finals of the 2010 world championship to qualify for the London Games.
Their game against Angola on Tuesday was expected to be an easy romp —and it was—with the U.S. overwhelming the Olympic newcomer 90-38. Even though Angola didn’t pose much of challenge for the U.S., the Americans had an intense practice Sunday—working to correct some of the weaknesses that the Croatians exposed Saturday. The Americans struggled on offense for three quarters against Croatia before winning by 25—the biggest margin of victory in any of the games on Saturday. Still, they know there is a lot to improve on.
The Americans (2-0) have won their last 35 games in the Olympics and four consecutive gold medals while Angola was looking for its first victory. The team lost its opener to Turkey by 22 points meaning African nations have only won one of their 25 games in the Olympics since Congo— formerly known as Zaire—first qualified in the 1996 Atlanta Games.
It’s definitely about ourselves,” said Bird. “That’s how Coach (Geno) Auriemma coaches in college. It’s his philosophy. Never about how much you win by or lose by, it’s how we played. Especially in a game like tonight where going in we kind of had a feeling it might be like this. Not to play to the score, not to relax.
“This is an opportunity for us to play together and we need to take advantage of every opportunity we get.”
(Follow Doug Feinberg on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ Dougfeinberg)
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