The University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s basketball team could soon have a major connection to the 2012 Olympic Summer Games.
Aside from establishing one of the nation’s top programs over the past 14 seasons, Huskies women’s basketball head coach Lisa Thomaidis has also been with Canada’s national women’s team serving as an assistant coach since 2001.
Thomaidis and Team Canada will have a shot at making it to London during the World Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Ankra, Turkey June 25 to July 1. Of the dozen teams competing, only five will clinch an Olympic berth.
The women’s national team has failed to qualify for the Summer Olympics since Sydney hosted the Games in 2000, but if anyone knows how to get a team out of a drought it’s Thomaidis.
The Huskies went upwards of half a century before medaling at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) nationals—before Thomaidis and crew landed bronze and silver finishes in 2010 and 2011. In 2001, after just two years with the club, she led the Huskies to their first postseason in 18 years.
Thomaidis said 2012 could be the year Canada shines.
“This is certainly our time,” said Thomaidis. “It would be gigantic. Up until now I haven’t let my mind go to that place—where we might go to the Olympics—just because it has been a long process. We have a legitimate shot. This is the pinnacle of our sport and to get there would be mind blowing.”
Team Canada has a more polished look than when Thomaidis first began with the organization 11 years ago. At that time the team was comprised mostly of college-level athletes; now there are only two collegiate players. The majority of the players on Canada’s roster play professionally around the world, in leagues like the Women’s National Basketball Association.
“This is the best team we’ve had in the 11 years we’ve been together and the team is playing quite well,” said Thomaidis. “We have a great core of athletes that have been around for the past five to eight years.”
Canada is currently ranked 11th in the world.
The national team will head to British Columbia, Seattle, Scotland and France for exhibition games prior to flying to Turkey for qualifying.
“We’re starting to see things on TV where they’re talking about the Olympics and it’s about 70 days until the opening ceremonies, so it’s starting to ramp up and get exciting,” said Thomaidis. “I can’t believe it’s here and in a month’s time we’ll know if we’re going or not.”