Olympics Make a Big Impression on Gael Competitors
For the three Gaels who took part in the Games of the Thirtieth Olympiad in London, the experience is still fresh in their minds.
Senior hoops star Matthew Dellavedova and San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills, a former Gaels standout, represented Australia’s Boomers basketball team. SMC women’s volleyball head coach Rob Browning participated as the team manager for the U.S. men’s volleyball team.
Dellavedova, who was competing in his first Games, was thrilled with his taste of the Olympics. “It was the best experience I have ever had,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve dreamed about since I was 4 or 5.”
It took some time for him to realize that he had accomplished his goal. “It didn’t really fully hit me until we were walking out at the opening ceremony,” he recalled. “It was pretty special. I was filming it on my iPhone and was just trying to soak it all up.” Standing on the court also made the moment real for him. “When you hear the national anthem before the game…it was all I ever wanted to do,” he said.
The Australians reached the quarterfinals before losing 86 –119 to the USA’s Dream Team. “It was tough, but we stuck with them through three quarters,” he said. “When you are out there, they are just another opponent. It probably won’t hit me until I watch the NBA this year.”
Since being back, Dellavedova has heard the stories of Gael fans rooting for the Boomers, even against the U.S. “It’s nice to think that even though we’re playing for another country, we still had support,” he said. He learned a lot from playing in the Olympics. “The experience of playing in high-pressure games against men and the physicality of the game will help me play back here,” he said.
His teammate, Mills, had an incredible run in his second Olympics. Mills led the tournament in scoring, averaging 21.2 points per game, beating out Kevin Durant. He also recorded the most points in a single game, notching 39 points against Great Britain.
Mills had a new role on his team this time. “I think the challenge that I had for London this time around was great in terms of leadership, being able to run a team and be a captain,” he told the Canberra Times.
Perhaps his best moment of the tournament was sinking a three-point buzzer-beater against Russia.
“It’s a good feeling,” Mills told FoxSports Australia after the game. “It’s one of those shots I have always dreamt of making in the Olympic Games.” Afterward, he tweeted a special message to Dellavedova about his role in the amazing play: “Can’t forget about my boy Della’s screen though #toughasnails.”
The former SMC basketball star made a big impression on the U.S. team. “Mills had one of the outstanding Olympics of any time,” USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski told the press.
For Browning, it was his fourth Olympics, and he said each experience has been different. The team went 0-5 in Sydney in 2000 and rebuilt to win gold in 2008 in Beijing.
This year, his team lost to Italy in the quarterfinals. After having won gold, it was a letdown. “When you’re competing, there’s all this hope,” he explained. After a loss, “you’re kind of a tourist; you’re just in this purgatory state.”
Browning said the view from inside the Games is very different. Although you get an insider’s picture, “you don’t really know what’s being shown, the specials, who’s getting all the press,” he said. “It’s like you’re in the middle of the forest but you can’t see anything because of all the trees. But you wouldn’t trade it, of course.”
He stayed in London to walk in the Closing Ceremony. “The closing is much less formal,” he said, “but walking into a stadium like that, full of people, and coming through that tunnel with your country, it is just an incomparable feeling.”
-Caitln Graveson '11