Rio is a beautiful place and I felt really welcomed by the Brazilians. The locals are passionate about their sport and created an amazing atmosphere around town and at games. No time more so than our opening game against Brazil. The noise was unbelievable and their support for their own team was amazing. They really idolise their Olympians and sporting heroes and continue to do so no matter the performance outcome; I found this really refreshing. Even just talking to cab drivers about the Olympics they are just so proud of their city and their athletes.
I learnt that medals are not easy to win. The Opals have been such a force in international basketball over the last 20 years that it has almost become a formality that we will medal. European teams should never be underestimated and it just takes one bad game to have your dreams and years of sacrifice crushed. Unfortunately, we learnt this lesson the hard way, credit to Serbia who played very well, however that quarter final is a game that will keep a lot of us up at night wondering what could have been.
A positive to come out of such a heartbreaking loss is that there are quite a few of us who are young enough to have a chance to redeem ourselves and the Opals in Tokyo. This means another 4 years of hard work and sacrifice in order to firstly make the team and then go on and use this experience as motivation and knowledge. I truly believe character is determined by how you bounce back from disappointment and whether you can learn from mistakes, that is something I will always have in the back of my mind over the next 4 years.
The hardest thing about losing the quarter final in the manner that we did was it may have been the final game for a couple of amazing Australian Opals. Both deserved to go out on a better note. Penny Taylor and Laura Hodges are both incredible people as well as two of our most decorated Opals. Penny has been one of the greatest international players and she showcased that once again in Rio. She’s someone I grew up idolising and I have really cherished the time we have spent together as team mates; I feel very lucky to have learnt so much from her. Laura was actually playing her 200th game for Australia in the quarter final. In an era where players play a lot overseas and not as much for their country, this is a phenomenal achievement. Laura was also my roomie in Rio and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to spend those 2 weeks with! The Opals will have a big hole to fill without these two and I really do wish we could have given these girls a better send off.
I’m very excited about the next stage of my career. I am about to head over to France to play with Lattes-Montpellier. I believe it’s the right time for me to begin my European career and I think it’s great that a lot of Aussies are also heading over. I believe playing European style basketball is so important and will benefit me personally and the same goes for all the other Opals. We’ve clearly seen the Europeans perform so well at international tournaments that it is vital we perform with and against them as much as we can.
Rachel Jarry is an Australian Olympic basketball player, most recently with the SEQ Stars of the WNBL and recently signed with Lattes-Montpellier.