Deerfield, IL — Elena Delle Donne is back in Chicago after receiving her first Olympic Gold medal of her career on Saturday, while playing for Team USA in Rio.
Back in 2011, Delle Donne got a "taste" of the Olympics when she played in the World Championship game in China. Now when I say taste, I mean you go to Giordano's and order a supreme pizza.
But the waitress serves you the only slice with just cheese on it. No onions, no peppers... just cheese. You don't get all of the flavors you could have had. Kind of like the Worlds compared to Olympics, you get some flavor but not all that it could be.
Delle Donne missed the 2014 Worlds because of an injury, but did everything she could physically do to get noticed at the national level again.
"Missing Worlds is crucial, especially since I have never been on an Olympic team before," Delle Donne shared how she got back to the National scene. "That's tough to do. I had to work my tail off. I went to all of the training camps to show them my absolute best. And luckily it paid off."
Well, it definitely did pay off. Delle Donne not only won her first ever gold medal, but she also contributed to the US making history. The US set records with 324 field goals and 224 assists in the 2016 Olympic Games. Sixty of those points and 19 of those assists came from the 2015 MVP, Elena Delle Donne.
"Just being a part of that team means the world to me. In the end, people don't always remember stats. But they will remember that team just because of how unselfishly we played and the way we played the game. "
Delle Donne continued, "They will remember how we respected the game and our opponents. To make history, that way was really awesome."
This gold medal tallies America's sixth straight gold. The US also owns an impressive 49 game win streak in the Olympics. During their time in Rio, Team USA showed nothing but dominance in every game. No other women's traditional sport has ever won five consecutive gold medals, yet US women's basketball just won their sixth!
Delle Donne said it's something to inspire to be. She continued,"US basketball just sets that level. You can see all the other countries are getting so much better and rising. When you set the bar high, it just makes the sport much better. And USA Basketball is credited for that."
For the second time now, women have won more medals than men in the Summer Games. This Olympics the Americans took home 121 medals collectively. However, the women won 61, where the men won 60.
Back in London four years ago, the women outpaced the men for the first time in history. The women tallied 58 medals compared to the men's 45.
However, it has not always been like this for the women. Back in 1972, before the Title IX was established, the American women only won 23 medals while their male counterparts won 71. This stat alone proves how far women have come in sports.
Delle Donne believes that women's basketball is heading in the right direction. She says Title IX has been a huge part of that.
"Now that we've seen several generations go through it, it's really special. I'm glad to see there was more coverage on it this time around too."
She added, "That's always huge for the coverage to be there to wake people up."
Not only did Delle Donne help win a gold medal for her country, but she also gave back in an even bigger way. Nike and Delle Donne teamed up to give all the newborn babies in Christiana Hospital a new pair of kicks upon her return to the States.
"It was amazing to be able to give back to my hometown, to the hospital I was actually born in...It's pretty crazy. Hopefully, it will inspire some of those little young-ins that just came into the world.”
In the box of shoes read an inspiring message to the newest generation:
“It all starts now. 26 years ago it started in Wilmington for a little champ just like you. And today Elena Delle Donne conquered the world. Maybe, someday, that could be you. Life moves fast. And in these, it will move a little faster. Just do it. Unlimited future.”
I'm excited to see how Delle Done will continue to inspire these young kids.
After making her dreams into a reality by winning gold, Delle Donne is now focused on finishing her WNBA season with a championship.
"Today is my first day back with the Sky. I had to reverse my brain a little bit. I think I was running a couple of US plays today." With laughter, she adds, " No, but it's alright, we got it together. I could tell the team is really anxious to get a win under the belt, because they have been working really hard while I was gone."
Delle Donne says she is tired, but explains more emotionally than anything. From winning gold not even a week ago in Rio to being back in Chicago preparing for a game, she is a little spent. But who wouldn't be?
"It was such a whirlwind. We are playing basketball, but going to events. Best experience of my life, but a little tired. But I'll be ready.”
Sky fans hope so, as Chicago is looking to fight back in the playoff run as the second half of the season gets underway. Chicago hosts Atlanta at 7:30 pm at the Allstate Arena on Friday.