Minn. Lynx Olympians ready their game for height of competition

Minnesota Lynx v. Tulsa Shock
Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen (13) makes a pass around two Tulsa Shock defenders to teammate Taj McWilliams-Franklin (8) during the second half Thursday, July 12, 2012. Minnesota defeated Tulsa, 89-74.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

Today, the WNBA starts a five-week break as the Olympics soon get underway. That means rest for some of the Minnesota Lynx, last year's champions, but not for three of its players: forward Maya Moore, and guards Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whelan are headed to London.

The Lynx finished the first half of the season Thursday with a 89-74 win over the Tulsa Shock.

In the locker room following the game, Lindsay Whalen, 30, said goodbye to Lynx staff and players. She'll soon be on a plane to London.

"Definitely ready to go and ready to get over there," she said.

The 2012 London Olympics begin July 27. The USA women's team plays its first game July 28 against Croatia.

These will be Whalen's first Olympic games. She's ready for years of hard work to pay off with play at the highest possible level.

Gain a Better Understanding of Today

MPR News is not just a listener supported source of information, it's a resource where listeners are supported. We take you beyond the headlines to the world we share in Minnesota. Become a sustainer today to fuel MPR News all year long.

"It doesn't just happen. I think you have to put years and years of time and effort and sacrifice into it. When you do get to the point where you're on the team, you feel like all that hard work has paid off," Whalen said.

"Get the gold. Get a bounce in their step. Come back here with a swag..."

The players scooped up pieces of cake with Olympic rings painting in frosted on the top. The sendoff would not have been so sweet without the win over Tulsa. Until this week, the Lynx were on a three-game losing streak.

"Maybe in some ways our three-game losing streak woke us up," said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve. She's glad to send the Olympians off with smiles on their faces, not scowls.

Now Reeve plans to give her players a little time off. The coach wants to work on players' individual weaknesses and they'll have some fun with group activities, like paintball or paddleboating on Lake Calhoun.

"And we've got to come out of this thing a well-oiled machine. I hope Lindsay and Seimone and Maya go over there and do great," Reeve said. "Get the gold. Get a bounce in their step. Come back here with a swag and be on a mission. Have fun and stay healthy. That's, you know, bring home the gold, but stay healthy for us."

Back in the locker room, Augustus acted shocked when someone mentioned the possibility of injuries during the Olympics.

"Oh, no injuries — no! Knock on wood, where's the wood?" Augustus said.

There's also the issue of fatigue. All three Lynx Olympians play year-round. This summer Augustus played in Russia, Whalen in the Czech Republic, and Maya Moore in Spain. Augustus admits she gets tired.

"Fatigue comes and goes throughout the season even if it isn't an Olympic year. We tend to get what we call the heavy legs where we tend to run into the wall," Augustus said. "We've been playing year-round so at some point we're going to hit that wall."

Of the three Lynx players heading to London, Augustus is the only Olympic veteran. She was part of the team that won a gold medal in 2008. Augustus, 28, said says she's pretty used to the intense pressure and attention. For the 23-year-old Moore, the Olympic games represent a great unknown.

"I think it's going to be an extremely proud moment. I'm going to be very conscious of just representing well and taking in the experience," Moore said. "Trying to treat everybody that I meet very well, and have a good time."

Moore doesn't really have anything to prove. She set a team record Thursday by scoring 19 points in the second quarter. She set her own career high with 28 points in all during the game. Now she's ready to focus on the Olympics.

"I probably need to take more moments to think about 'wow.' How cool it is," Moore said.

Lynx fans are having plenty of those moments. Especially season-ticket holders like Debbie Montgomery, who was honored during yesterday's game. Montgomery, St Paul's first female police officer, has supported the Lynx since the team's inception 14 years ago. The 66-year-old says feels a personal pride in the three Olympians.

"When they go over there, you know they're all stars. But more importantly, they're Minnesota Lynx," Montgomery said. "And when they talk about them and write about them, we're the only group that can say we've got three on the Olympic team from one team — and it's Minnesota."

Montgomery just hopes the three will have enough energy left when they come back to help the Lynx win another WNBA championship.