It’s been quite a year for Kia Nurse and the Canadian women’s basketball team.
Last July, Canada defeated the United States 81-73 in the gold medal match of 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games. Then in August, Canada won the FIBA Americas tournament in Edmonton with an 82-66 win over Cuba in the championship game.
“Obviously we were really fortunate to have those two tournaments last year on home soil,” Nurse told Olympic.ca. “We performed extremely well and we were able to show everybody in Canada what women’s basketball was all about. Since then, the support that we’ve gotten from people has been tremendous and I couldn’t be more thankful for it.”
Nurse was pivotal in both tournaments for Canada. In the Pan Am final, the 20-year-old recorded 33 points and went on to be named the country’s flag-bearer in the Closing Ceremony. At the FIBA Americas – an Olympic qualifying tournament – Nurse posted 20 points in the final en route to being named tournament MVP.
On Friday, Nurse was one of 12 players named to Team Canada’s women’s basketball team for Rio 2016. The Olympics present a much bigger challenge for the squad.
“Coming in we understand that we have to peak and be at our best performance in the Olympics. There are still a lot of things that we can get better at and a lot of things we can work on. But we’re on the right track right now.”
The women’s basketball team offers a mix of youth and experience. Seven of the 12 members were part of the team that finished eighth at London 2012 – which was the first time Canada had qualified a women’s basketball squad for an Olympic Games since Sydney 2000.
The Rio 2016 team was in Toronto for a practice on Friday, giving Nurse a chance to play with her teammates for the first time since having sports hernia surgery.
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“I’m feeling great. I’m ready to go,” said Nurse. “It’s just back to practice now. Back to basketball.
“It was a pretty quick recovery. It’s one of those fast sports surgeries that you can get. I was fortunate enough to be able to do a lot of stuff pretty quick.”
Nurse has seemed to enjoy playing on the big stage in the past. Along with strong performances in gold medal contests in 2015, the Hamilton native averaged 12.3 points per game and shot 56.4 percent from beyond the arc against ranked NCAA opponents with the University of Connecticut Huskies last season in U.S. collegiate basketball.
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While qualifying for an Olympic Games is a major accomplishment, Nurse said that earning a berth with the program and players she developed with is extra special.
“It’s an Olympics. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m just fortunate enough to go and be with these people. To have this experience is going to be incredible for me.”