Lauren Jackson, a three-time WNBA MVP, was chosen Thursday as her native Australia’s flag-bearer for the London Olympic Games’ opening ceremonies on Friday. More than 200 Australians will march in the stadium behind her.
The announcement was at a gala in the flag-bearer’s honor. Bets were even placed on who would receive the nod, many picking Jackson, 31, because of her dedication to her country, sport and women in athletics. This is her fourth Olympic Games, winning silver in the past three. The Opals are 21-3 in Olympic competition since Jackson joined the team, the losses all against Team USA.
When asked what her parents, both former members of Australia’s national team, would think of her selection, Jackson told reporters they “would both fall off their feet.” She also didn’t believe she deserved the honor.
“To me, Lauren is an unassuming athlete with wonderful leadership qualities on and off the court,” said Australian chef de mission Nick Green, who made the selection. “She has all the qualities I admire in a leader and that is the person our team needs as a captain here in London.”
You can catch the opening ceremonies on NBC at 7:30 p.m. (PDT). The Opals begin Olympic competition on Saturday against host-country Great Britain. You can catch that game as well as the American’s pool-play opener against Croatia on Comcast channel 895. It’s a special basketball station provided by NBC, but the network will also offer replays on its main station. Please click here for your local stations and times to catch the action.
Jackson, a 6-foot-6 center, negotiated missing the opening half of the WNBA season with the Storm (9-10) in order to prepare and compete in the Games. Her full salary is counted against Seattle’s salary cap, but she will only be paid a prorated amount once she returns.
The 2001 No. 1 overall draft pick, Jackson said she would be back in a Storm uniform once WNBA play resumes Aug. 16 – adding it would only be delayed if her country won the coveted gold medal in order to give time to celebrate at home.
The Storm is the only team Jackson has played for in the WNBA. And after the Mariners traded Ichiro to the Yankees this week, the Aussie is Seattle’s longest-tenured athlete at 12 seasons.
Jackson is the second WNBA player to receive the honor of flag-bearer at the Olympic Games. Former guard Dawn Staley led the Americans in 2004 at the Athens Games.
*PHOTO CREDIT: Storm C Lauren Jackson goes for a block for the Opals by The Associated Press.