Olympic dreams come true

July 7, 2012
By Jonathon Brodie
London Community News

From a Thames Valley Regional Athletics Central basketball champion to an Olympic hopeful, London-native Miranda Ayim never thought in her wildest dreams she could earn international glory as a Saunders Secondary School student.

“At that point? I don’t think so,” the 24-year-old Ayim said. “At that point my next step was just like, ‘I hope I get a scholarship to college.’”

She’s come a long way since being a 2005 high school champ, spending four years at Pepperdine University in California and becoming the first Waves women’s basketball player to be a three-time West Coast Conference All-Academic selection.

The 6-foot-3 power forward’s latest venture though, has done more than just improve her game and extend her career as it possibly gave her a slight edge in the Olympic qualifying tournament hosted in the Turkish capital of Ankara in late June.

“Sometimes when you go to a new place overseas you feel a little out of source just because you don’t know exactly what’s going on,” she said, spending the last two years in Turkey with the Alanya and Istanbul University teams, as well as three games for the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock in the 2011 season. “I definitely feel that (it’s) not a second home, but I’m more familiar with it and I was able to tell my teammates what to expect.”

If the Canadian women’s team felt any extra comfort at the qualifier, they didn’t exactly show it at the start. The team won their opening game by crushing Mali 89-23, but it followed it up with a pair of losses to France (56-47) and Croatia (59-56).

The defeats forced Canada to win their next two games against Argentina and Japan to pick up the 12th and final bid into the 2012 Summer Games in London, England.

The Canucks 58-41 win over Argentina breaks a four-game losing streak against the South American team.

“Unfortunately, we decided to make it the hard way, so it put a lot more pressure on us and at that point it was do-or-die,” Ayim said, collecting four points in the game against Argentina and another four points and two rebounds in last Sunday’s (July 1) victory over Japan. “You really have to dig into yourselves at that moment.”

The tears didn’t flow at first for Ayim after the Olympic bid was sealed, but when she did her post-game phone call with her parents a few were squeezed out after they told the basketball star of her local fan support.

“I don’t think it really hit me until I was on the phone with my parents after the game and they were telling me, because it was a Sunday, about the children ministry at our church and how they would pray that we would have a successful game,” she said. “I just thought that was so sweet, so I was on the phone with my parents and I shed a few tears at that point.”

This will be the first time a Canadian basketball team will be heading to the Olympics since 2000, so the prospects for Team Canada to make it onto the podium is wishful thinking for some— something Ayim takes comfort in knowing.

“I don’t think there is a lot of expectations that we’re going to win or medal and I think that’s something I’ve come to appreciate over the years,” she said, spending six years in the national program—three of them with the Senior Women’s team. “I haven’t always been in the place where I’m one of the most highly touted athletes in the area and going to a small school as well, so I kind of take that as a challenge.”

This year’s Olympic pursuit goes outside just bringing a medal back home and puts Canada women’s basketball on the biggest sporting spectacle in the world for all to see, but more importantly Canadians to view.

“We really want to take the program to the next level,” Ayim said. “I think we’re really ushering in a young generation to come and as we’re getting older and leaving, hopefully we’re setting it up so that Basketball Canada is regularly going to the Olympics.”

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