On what she says will be the proudest night of her life,
basketballer Lauren Jackson will lead Australia into Olympic battle Friday
night with unfinished business to attend to.
Chef de Mission Nick Green asked the 31 year old Opals
captain to carry the flag at the Opening Ceremony before she attempts to snap a
frustrating sequence of three successive silver medals, defeated every time by
the mighty Americans at the last hurdle.
Green’s decision, over which he agonised emotionally for
a long time, was well-received, especially by those who believed it was time
another woman got the coveted gig – diver Jenny Donnett was the last in 1992.
It is in line with the AOC policy of promoting gender equality.
"It has blown me away. It is something that in my wildest
dreams I never imagined I would achieve. I can’t think of anything to top
this,” she said.
"Loz” is the second basketballer to do it in four Games,
following popular veteran Andrew Gaze in Sydney in 2000 and was there to
congratulate her this time.
Jackson ticks all the boxes that usually apply, except
for the elusive gold medal – but three silvers isn’t far short. There is
nothing else she hasn’t done, with many believing her to have been the world’s
best player during much of her 11 year career in the American WNBA.
She has captained Australia to its only world
championship in 2006 and to a Commonwealth games gold medal the same year, as
well as the silver in Beijing four years ago. She is not only immensely
talented but tough, too, having overcome many injuries, she has a strong social
conscience and both her parents have represented Australia.
The more you consider her c.v., the more appropriate it
is that Green chose her ahead of a powerful list of well-credentialed
When he summoned her at the beginning of the week to
inform her she had the job , she feared she was about to be reprimanded for
doing something wrong. She kept the secret "pretty well,” she said.
Nonetheless, her moment of glory went down well with punters in Australia who
backed her heavily.
The gold medal campaign begins on Saturday night against
Great Britain, coached by Australian Tom Maher, who had much to do with her
"This moment makes me believe nothing is impossible,” she
said. Consider that a gold-plated statement of intent.