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Basketball - 12. August 2012.

OLYW - Harrower helps Opals to bronze in last game

LONDON (Olympics) - Kristi Harrower couldn't have scripted her last game for Australia any better. A veteran of four Olympic Games, Harrower had her best outing of the London Olympics, finishing with 21 points and four assists to help the Opals beat Russia 83-74 in the Bronze Medal Game.

The 37-year-old guard has had an illustrious career, winning silver medals at three Olympics - Sydney (2000), Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008).

Following her team's win on Saturday, Harrower talked to FIBA.com.

FIBA: Kristi, congratulations on the bronze medal. How satisfying was this?
Harrower: We didn't get to play in the Gold Medal Game this year, but you know the last three Olympics we lost (the Finals). This year we finished the tournament on a win and now I can say that I'm a four-time Olympian with four medals.

FIBA: Can you talk about today's game and what it came down to?
Harrower: We had to work hard for that win. Russia didn't let down at all but we stuck to our game plan and we just made sure we tried to get stops on defense. We knew we could score any time we wanted to so it was about knuckling down on defense. This is pretty special, four Olympics with four medals. I'm pretty happy.

FIBA: During the game, did you think much about how this was your last time playing for the Opals?
Harrower: I tried not to think of it because when I do I get really emotional about it. My first couple of shots dropped and so I had to just try and stay aggressive all the time. I was lucky a lot of them went in today. I'm just happy we got the win in the end.

FIBA: You played a lot of minutes too. How did you feel by the end?
Harrower: I was pretty stuffed by the end of the game. I don't think I got subbed in the second half so I was pretty tired at the end. But we said before the game that we had to give everything we had, walk away spent even if we had to. Lauren (Jackson) was good for us again today but it was a good team effort. It wasn't just me and Lauren, it was people doing a job on Becky Hammon and people like. that. Russia are a great team, they shoot well and they're tough to guard but we got the win.

FIBA: You have three silvers and a bronze medals. Does this bronze trump any of the silvers because it was your last game?
Harrower: I'll cherish all the medals I have. It's always nice to be in the Gold Medal Game. In this tournament, we lost to France and we weren't able to get there against the USA. When you look at it, you actually finish the Olympics on a win and we're actually calling rose gold or dirty gold so it's a gold to us.

FIBA: What's next for you? Will you keep playing club basketball?
Harrower: I will think about what I want to do. I think I'm still good enough to play so I'd like to play as long as I can. If I do it will probably be just one more season.

FIBA: What about this Opals team? How do you think it can perform in future tournaments?
Harrower: I think some of our players need to get overseas now. When you play in Europe and the WNBA, you're a professional and you play world-class players every week. We're not professional at home. I think the Opals are ok, there are great players coming through. As long as they can get keep getting some more experience. We had six rookies and I think they would have learned a lot from this experience. I suppose it depends on people like Suzi (Batkovic) and Lauren and what they're going to do. If they can stick around, we're still in good shape.

FIBA: Did you know that your teammates were going to lift you on their shoulders at the end of the game?
Harrower: I didn't actually. You know as Australians, it's a tradition with football, when you play your last game, they'll walk you off the ground on their shoulders. It was nice. It was really special. To be honest, I thought about it before the game. I wondered if they would do that at the end but I didn't mention anything, I kept it to myself. But that was a highlight. It's great...you know I'm pretty down to earth and just go out and do my job...it's great that the girls recognise what I did for being with the Opals for 20 years.

FIBA: Can you talk a bit about Lauren Jackson. It's unclear whether she will be back in four years time in Rio.
Harrower: She has a lot to offer with all the experience she has. Four years ago I said I probably wouldn't be here. And then a year out, when they started talking about London I really wanted to do it and I had to make sure I got on top of my injury. I think that will be the same with Lauren. Four years is a such a long way away. If she just plays in Australia and maybe the WNBA now, that might help her a little bit with her injuries because the European season is so demanding now. If she can do it, why not? You know five-time Olympian, I don't think any other basketball player other than Andrew Gaze has done that.

FIBA: Looking back on the last few weeks and months, how do you feel? Is there a sense of relief?
Harrower: It's such a demanding tournament, over two weeks. We've been going probably since the middle of May. And at my age that's a long time. So it's just good that now that it's finished we can go and celebrate.

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