Swin Cash is on a Mission

Colorado Springs, Colo. • February 6, 2012

Most people would be happy to boast of even a smidgen of Swin Cash’s athletic resume. She has one Olympic gold medal, one FIBA World Championship gold medal, three WNBA titles and a pair of NCAA championships, including 2002 when she was named the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player.

Many would sit back and think, ‘that’s plenty; I’ve done it all’ But not Cash.

Currently in her third ‘off-season’ playing in China, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist has been focused on one goal since July 10, 2008. That was the day the 2008 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team was finalized without her.

Cash, who was on hand for six of the USA’s eight training camps/competitions in 2007-08, thought she had done enough to earn a spot on the 2008 squad, including being a contributing factor off the bench at the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship, in which the USA captured gold to qualify for Beijing. Cash had been hampered by injuries, however, and that was likely one of the deciding factors for the selection committee.

Using that as a motivator, Cash spent the next two years getting her groove back.

And get it back she did.

In 2010 Cash averaged 16.1 ppg., 4.9 rpg. and 3.0 apg. in the WNBA playoffs as the Storm swept all three rounds and captured the title. She, along with USA and Storm teammate Sue Bird, then hopped a plane for Europe and joined up with the USA World Championship Team just in time for the start of the 2010 FIBA World Championship. Starting four of nine games, Cash averaged 8.6 ppg. and 3.2 rpg. in helping the U.S. to a perfect 9-0 record, the gold medal and a 2012 Olympic berth.

USA Basketball emailed 10 questions to Cash, who was in China through the end of the season. We wanted to know how she has been doing since the end of the 2011 USA National Team’s European Tour, what it’s like playing in China and other interesting items, like what makes Diana Taurasi such a great player and who she would pick to start alongside her. This is what she had to say:

How much did coming so close to the 2008 team, but not making it, motivate you for the next four years to do everything in your power to make it to London in 2012?
CashIt wasn’t easy not making the 2008 team, but I took it to heart and went back to work.  First thing I did was get healthy! After playing through injury for three years, I finally had back surgery to repair my disc in 2009. Then I trained with my strength and conditioning coach from my playing days at UConn, Andrea Hudy, who is now the head of strength and conditioning at the University of Kansas. (Thanks also to Lew & Gwen Perkins, Love them).

I then spoke to the people in my inner circle and put a game plan together with my eye on the 2012 games in London as the goal. So, for the last three years I’ve made sacrifices with everything else in my life, including my desire for a television career and my other business ventures, to focus playing more in the off-season. The only thing I didn’t sacrifice was my charity work through Cash for Kids.

So, the last few years I’ve just tried to put myself in the best situation for 2012. I feel like I’ve made progress, and I’m moving in the right direction towards my ultimate goal of competing again in the Olympics.

What is it about the Olympics that makes it more special than anything else?
Cash: There’s nothing like it in the world. In basketball we play in a team sport, so you are always playing for a group. But when you play basketball for the Olympic team, you aren’t just playing for your high school, college or city – you are playing for the entire country! You have a sense of pride, obligation and responsibility to honor those colors of red, white and blue. It is the biggest stage in the world, and the responsibility to represent your country comes with being on that stage. It is the ultimate honor.

My father and my brother served in the military, and I am forever grateful for their service and the service of all our men and women in the military. I see competing in the Olympics as part of the U.S. Olympic team, should I be lucky enough to be chosen to do so, as my small way to serve my country.

Looking back at 2004 in Athens, what are your favorite memories on and off the court?
Cash: One of my favorite memories on the court was from our practices. You would have thought we were playing against Australia and Russia (the other top contenders for the gold medal) everyday. We were so young back then, but with vets like Tina (Thompson) taking me under her wing I learned a lot. Sue (Bird), Catch(Tamika Catchings), Dee (Diana Taurasi), Ruth (Riley) and I were considered the white team with Yolanda Griffith in practice, and we got after it. Oh the fun we had!

But seriously, the gold medal game was amazing! I remember feeling so unbelievably happy. Once that medal went around my neck all bets were off, and the tears started flowing.

Off the court, I remember everyone hanging out with family and friends, enjoying the atmosphere of the Olympics. It really is a one-of-a-kind experience that you can’t replicate. It wasn’t the men’s or women’s team anymore; we all were one team. We were USA Basketball. Good times on the Queen Mary II.

You’re playing in China for the third season in a row. What is it about that country that you enjoy and do you often see other Americans at your games – either in the stands or on other teams?
CashI’ve enjoyed the experience in China the last three years. The people are hardworking and have a lot of focus on family.

Business-wise, I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge, so that’s been a blessing. China has a shorter season, good competition and our team sponsor invests in our team. He actually partnered with the NBA to form the Dongguan New Century Basketball Academy in China. He is committed to winning and expanding basketball in China.

In the major cities I will see “foreigners” as we’re called. But the Chinese love basketball; they frequent our games.

How fun was it to play for your old college coach at the 2010 FIBA World Championship and how much are you hoping to be back on the court with Geno Auriemma and other UConn teammates in London?
Cash: The World Championship was a lot of fun. Coach was his old self, demanding perfection on the floor but realistically knowing we could only come close to getting it. (LOL) To have Coach there with Asjha (Jones), Sue and Dee was like taking a walk down memory lane. All the players had great chemistry, and it wasn’t about what college you went to. We all were one team, one goal. Period.

What is happening with your charity and how are you helping people through it?

CashMy charity, Cash For Kids, has been doing some amazing things. I’m so blessed to have a great team of people around me to make change in these young people’s lives. I was fortunate enough to be the recipient of the WNBA Cares Community Assist Award in August for multi-day events we put on with the ladies from the Boys & Girls Club. We are in the middle of planning our 2012 events.

I was recently traded from Seattle to Chicago, so we will have our first event in the Windy City sometime this summer. There will also be an event back in Pittsburgh for back-to-school. My mom serves as Commissioner of our youth basketball leagues, which will kick off in March and run though June. We will also be relaunching my website www.swincash.com at the beginning of February, so you will be able to find all the information on there.

Who do you feel will be the USA’s biggest threat in London?
Cash: Of course Australia and Russia are always a threat, so we have to be prepared. Bottom line, we have to take care of ourselves and not put so much emphasis on other teams. With limited time to prepare we just have to make every second count.

What Olympic sport – summer or winter – would you like to try if given the chance?
Cash: The women’s 100 meter hurdles.  I ran in high school and always loved track & field. I loved Gail Devers. Loved her attitude like, ‘Yes I’m going to kick your butt then show you my nails because I’m a lady!’

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