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USA's Jackie Young reflects on her journey, historic 3x3 participation in Tokyo Olympics
MIAMI (USA) - No Olympian’s journey to a gold medal is ever easy, or similar to another athlete on how or why they got there. For 3x3 gold medalist Jackie Young, her Olympic journey started just 10 days before she took the podium with her teammates.
The United States 3x3 team comprised of head coach Kara Lawson and players Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray, Kelsey Plum and Katie Lou Samuelson had success on an undefeated run in Graz, Austria during the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament to secure their spot in Tokyo, but just days before the Olympic games were to start on July 23, disaster struck.
Samuelson had to enter health and safety protocols and withdraw from the tournament, and Young was on call to fly from her vacation in Florida back to Nevada to then leave for Japan all in a span of four days to make it in time for the start of 3x3, one of the first events to kick off.
"You work for that your whole life, so be able to do that in the Olympics was just a dream come true, they could have chosen anybody and they chose me so I’m just super thankful for that," said Young.
Young had previous experience playing 3x3 in Qatar representing USA as she attended the World Beach Games in 2019, as well as training with USA’s 3x3 team at Olympic Qualifying Camp in Chicago in 2020. But after a year off and the four candidates being named to the team, Young had been away from the game of 3x3 for over a year.
The USA 3x3 women’s team was the only team from the Americas region to compete in the games, a sport heavily played on tours overseas. The effort and growth of those involved allowed the team to not only make it to the Olympics but also compete with the world’s best.
"I like how fast paced it is, you just never stop, I think that’s really what draws the crowd, people always say it’s so fast paced, it’s so physical and I think people like that and so it’s fun to watch and definitely fun to play in," said Young.
"Just us winning will definitely help grow the game, there are a lot of NBA players and other athletes that enjoyed watching 3x3 so I think that was huge for us."
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Despite her absence from the game for over a year before landing in Tokyo, Young averaged 2 points and 2.6 rebounds per game as USA cruised through group play with a 5-1 record and secured a gold medal at the inaugural 3x3 Olympic event.
For most players, being invited to national team camp is something they’ve always dreamed of, and Young never had that experience despite vying for years and attending various training sessions in order to prove her worth on the team.
Now, Young is a gold medalist in an Olympic sport’s debut after having only 10 days to prepare and play in the gold medal game, proving Young’s versatility and flexibility as a basketball player.
"This has definitely been something that I’ve worked for since I was a little girl, I remember in high school going to camps out in Colorado, being cut a few times, I think I was cut maybe two or three times," said Young.
"Then I had the opportunity to play 3x3 in Qatar and then just had the opportunity now, and it’s like wow, it finally happened – I definitely put in the time and it was just an honor to be able to play for USA basketball and just 3x3 in the Olympics."