COLORADO SPRINGS (Olympics) - The United States did not capture gold at the 2006 FIBA World Championship for Women in Brazil, but then again, the US did not have Lisa Leslie.
That fact will not be lost on any of the teams that will be taking on the Americans this summer at the Beijing Games, where Leslie will once again wear the red, white and blue to help her country defend the Olympic title.
She has already led the Americans to gold in Atlanta, Sydney and Athens.
The 35-year-old star, who took the 2006 summer off with the national team, will indeed be with national team coach Anne Donovan and her fellow Americans in China.
On Wednesday, Leslie spoke about what it means for her to be an Olympian.
“The Olympics is an amazing opportunity,” she said.
“Talk about representing your country and being able to come together and have the camaraderie that you experience with an Olympic team is something that most people only get to do maybe once in a lifetime.
“Anne and I, Teresa Edwards, Dawn Staley and Sheryl Swoopes, a few of us have been able to do it three or more time and it's just great.”
Going to the Olympics is, not surprisingly, something that never loses its appeal for an athlete.
Leslie is not an exception to that rule.
“For me, personally, I've been in this system for 20 years now and all we know is to win gold, to strive for the best,” she said.
“It's been great for me, starting as an 11th grader being in the USA Basketball system and learning from so many great players.
“Now having that opportunity to be that veteran who can hand it off to our younger players, that's what it's about - winning and doing it with style and class and representing our country to the best of our ability.”
Don’t think for a minute that the rest of the world is ready to hand the gold medal to the USA, though.
There are big stumbling blocks along the way, as the World Championship in Brazil proved when Russia upset the USA before falling to Australia in the title game.
Leslie can already picture what it would feel like to be an Olympic champion again, though.
“It's just amazing,” she said. “That's the only word I can use ... when you hear the national anthem and see our flag being raised, having a gold medal placed around our necks, that moment in time is just almost irreplaceable...the fourth one will be just as sweet as the first one for me.”
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images