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NEW YORK — So far, 2016 has brought a lot of joy to Breanna Stewart. She won an NCAA title with the UConn Huskies, was drafted No. 1 by the Seattle Storm in the WNBA draft and now chases her first Olympic gold medal with the U.S. women’s basketball team in Rio de Janeiro.
At 21 years old, Stewart is the youngest U.S. Olympic women’s basketball player since 1988 and just one of three members of the national team that will be playing on their first Olympic team.
The 2016 Olympics are 100 days away and will begin with the Opening Ceremony on Aug. 5. The U.S. women’s basketball team, which has not lost a game in the Olympics since 1992, is vying for a sixth straight gold medal.
Sports Illustrated caught up with Stewart in Times Square for the Team USA’s 100 Days Out Celebration just moments after the U.S. women’s basketball team was announced.
Chris Chavez:It’s finally official. You’ve made your first Olympic team. How’s that feel?
Breanna Stewart: It feels unbelievable to have the opportunity to play on the national team and play for a gold medal with this group is incredible. You can’t ask for a whole lot more coming out of college right away.
CC: When did you find out officially and what was that call like?
BS: I found out on Friday when Carol Callan [the U.S.A. women’s basketball national team director] called. It was nerve-wracking because you knew that she was going to call eventually. When her name popped up on my phone, I thought ‘This is either going to be very good or very sad.’ Right away she congratulated me and it was a huge relief knowing that I have the opportunity to win a gold medal for my country.
CC:Geno Auriemma is going to be your coach again. Does that make it easier for you to make the adjustment to the international and elite level?
BS: He’s still going to coach the same way that he’s still going to coach at UConn. One of the best parts upon realizing that I made the team is that I’ll have one more opportunity to play for him. My four years are done at UConn and that went by fast. It’s going to be great to get back on the court with him.
CC:How different is it to go from one dominant team at the collegiate level to a force to be reckoned with on the international scene?
BS: It’s the next level. College is college but the professional level is the professional level. The Olympics are another level beyond that. I’m happy to be training with the Seattle Storm and playing with them in the summer. That will help get me as much experience with professionals to get ready for Rio and when training camp rolls around, I’ll do what I can.
CC: You took a Twitter break for a while to focus on the NCAA championship.Is that in the plans for Brazil?
BS: Nope. I don’t think there’s going to be any more Twitter breaks. We’ll see what happens once the competition starts. People want to hear what’s going on especially the ones that are not in Brazil and they want to be as tuned in as they can.
CC:When you look at this team on paper, it’s strong and a heavy favorite for the gold medal. What’s the most exciting part about embarking on this journey?
BS: I got excited just looking at the people that I’m going to be able to play with. Coach talked about the veterans on the team like Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi going for their fourth gold medals. That’s unbelievable and the fact that I’m going to be able to learn from them is great. I hope to be in their shoes one day going for a fourth Olympic medal.