WNBA superstar Diana Taurasi is headed to her fifth Olympic games for Team USA later this month.
Taurasi and Sue Bird could become the first of their sport – men or women – to win 5 gold medals.
The 39-year-old spoke to Insider about potentially making history and how she stays motivated.
Diana Taurasi isn’t done yet.
The Phoenix Mercury superstar is the WNBA’s all-time points leader and is widely considered the greatest women’s basketball player of all time. And now, at 39 years old, Taurasi is headed to the fifth Olympic games of her illustrious career.
Should Team USA emerge victorious in Tokyo, as the star-studded team has at each of the past six Olympics, Taurasi will make history as the first basketball player – man or woman – to win five gold medals.
“When you get to five, the motivation is larger than getting to the Olympics or winning a gold medal,” Taurasi told Insider. “You have to have some internal motivation and fire that really drives you and wanting to still play and compete.”
It helps that she’s pushing the bounds of the sport – and her physicality – alongside her best friend and longtime teammate, Sue Bird. The superstar Seattle Storm point guard is the WNBA’s all-time assists leader and, at 40 years old, the oldest active player in the WNBA and on the 12-person Olympics roster.
Like Taurasi, Bird has won gold with Team USA at every summer Olympics since the 2004 Athens games. But the pair’s close friendship dates back to their college days when they joined forces to win a national championship for Geno Auriemma’s UConn Huskies.
“When you get to do what you love with people you love, I think it just changes the dynamic of that situation,” Taurasi said. “I’ve been lucky enough to do it with my best friend since the 2004 Olympics. Playing in Russia, playing in college, we’ve gotten to do a lot of pretty cool stuff, and we’ve gotten to do them together.”
“You don’t get to always do that in life,” she added.
For a moment, though, it looked as though Taurasi wouldn’t be making the trip to Tokyo alongside Bird. During WNBA play in mid-May, the sharpshooter suffered a chest injury that relegated her to the sidelines. X-rays later revealed a fracture in her sternum.
Taurasi admits that she had “a little doubt” about being ready for the Olympics upon learning her prognosis.
“Once the X-Rays came back that I had a fractured sternum, I was like, ‘Wow,'” she said. “‘I mean, it’s not just a sprained ankle, you have a crack in your chest!’ How quickly can this heal, and how quickly can I get back on the court knowing that the Olympics are right around the corner?’ But I talked to the doctors, and our training staff here in Phoenix has been great. I feel good. The bone is healing.”
“So there was a little doubt at the beginning,” Taurasi added. “But I feel pretty confident that from here on out, I’ll just feel better and better.”
Now nearly 20 years into her playing career, Taurasi needs to prepare herself physically more than she does mentally. An essential part of winning that battle against father time – and coming back from injuries like the sternum fracture – is staying hydrated, she says.
She’s made BODYARMOR – the sports drink that launched into the mainstream thanks to a 2013 investment from the late Kobe Bryant – a fixture “in my daily routine” to fuel her training for the WNBA and Team USA. She’s hoping to “get a nice little shipment to Tokyo” and even credits the electrolyte-filled beverage with helping prolong her professional basketball career.
“The partnership that we’ve developed with BODYARMOR has been really key and crucial to sustaining my level of play going into my fifth Olympics and 17th WBA season,” Taurasi said. “There are little things in your career that helped you raise the bar. And I think BODYARMOR has done that in a lot of ways for myself and in the world of sports.”
Now that her chest injury is on the backburner and the WNBA All-Star Game is over, Taurasi is shifting her focus to the Olympics. She, Bird, and the rest of Team USA will begin their pursuit for gold on Tuesday, July 27, with a matchup against Nigeria at 12:40 AM ET.
Read the original article on Insider