Sue Bird’s quest for a fifth Olympic gold medal has been put on hold, but she’s hoping to get another opportunity in 2021.
The International Olympic Committee postponed the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo last month because of the coronavirus pandemic. The rescheduled Games will take place in Tokyo in 2021 from July 23-Aug. 8.
Bird, who won gold medals with Team USA in 2004, ’08, ‘12 and ’16, was planning to be part of the Olympic team this summer. The Syosset native missed all of last season in the WNBA while recovering from knee surgery after helping the Seattle Storm win the title in 2018. The 11-time All-Star re-signed with the Storm in February, ready to embark on her 19th season with the franchise and a trip to the Olympics.
Now the point guard, who will turn 40 in October, will need to wait. In addition to the Olympics moving to 2021, the WNBA has postponed the start of its season, which was set to begin on May 15. Still, Bird is hoping to make it to Tokyo in 2021.
“I mean, it’s a year away,” Bird told ESPN’s Ryan Ruocco during a live interview Wednesday on the NBA’s Instagram account. “So much can happen in an athlete’s life in a year, the way I’ve actually been kind of approaching it for the last four years.
"Like right after Rio [in 2016], I even was like, ‘I’m on the one-year plan, I’m on the one-year plan.’ And the way I feel about it is if I’m in good health, you know, I’m still at the top of my game, I’m playing at an elite level and USA Basketball calls me and is like, ‘Hey, you want to do this?’ Of course I’m going to do it. You got to kind of take care of what you can, and then once you get to that point, you’ll know. I would never be able to say, ‘Oh, yeah. I’ll be there. No problem.’ I don’t think any athlete really could.”
But when asked if the 2021 Olympics is still a goal, Bird said, “Oh, yeah. Absolutely.”
Bird said that if everything had gone according to plan this summer with the WNBA and the Olympics, she still had thoughts about playing in 2021. She said she had short-term goals for 2020, which included helping the Storm win another title and playing in the Olympics. But she also wants to have her career come full circle by playing in Key Arena in 2021. Bird started her WNBA career in Key Arena and it’s scheduled to re-open in the summer of 2021 after a massive renovation project.
“I was like, ‘Man, I’d really like to finish my career on the court that I started it on,' ” Bird said. “So that was always kind of like part of my long-term, short-term planning. The Olympics being postponed didn’t change much.”
Bird returned to the court as a member of Team USA in the fall and winter, touring the country to play college teams. With the sports world shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, she is doing her best to stay sharp. She said she has been using workout equipment in her home and had been using a local park to get some shots up until the park was closed to enforce social distancing.
“It’s definitely a little awkward,” Bird said about trying to stay sharp physically and mentally. “I think as an older player, I have to be really mindful about my knees and pounding, getting on the court and constantly running and putting that work in. So I have to be really mindful of that, which makes it even more awkward because I don’t want to be wasting it. I only got so much left. I’m not trying to waste it at the playground. I’m trying to save it for the Olympics next year.”