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Going for gold: 14 with Utah ties competing in Summer Games

Published: Thursday, July 26 2012 9:17 p.m. MDT

The 6-1 guard/forward is from Mission, British Columbia, and majored in speech communications at the University of Utah. She's been a member of the Canadian National team for nine years.

SHONA THORBURN

The former University of Utah point guard (2002-2006) still holds the assist record for the Utes. But the 5-10 point guard is hoping to lead Team Canada to new heights in London. She's joined by two other former Utah basketball players as they make the first trip to the Summer Olympics for a Canadian women's basketball team since 2000.

She described the challenges that will face the Canadian Olympic team in London.

"Other than Teresa (Gabriele, member of the 2000 team), we have no Olympic experience," she said. "The other teams we will play have a lot more experienced players. So maybe at times nerves might get the better of us. That being said, we are the underdogs; we don't have any pressure on us, so hopefully that keeps our nerves in check."

Thorburn has played with Ute teammate Kim Smith for 11 years, starting with junior national teams.

"We had a dream when we were teenagers to play at the Olympics together and now finally that dream is coming true."

That dream began when she watched the Canadian Team compete in the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.

A native of Hamilton, Ontario, she was drafted in the first round of the WNBA by Minnesota, but now plays for Girona, a professional women's basketball team in Spain. She's been a member of the Canadian National team for six years.

Thorburn took a break from the national team for nearly eight years before returning last year.

Her advice to aspiring Olympians is simple — work hard.

"If I made it, dreams can come true," she said. "Be prepared to work harder than you ever have; be willing to make sacrifices so when you look back it's all worth it. I encourage everyone to follow their dreams because you never know what might happen."

MICHELLE PLOUFFE

At 19, Michelle Plouffe is one of the youngest members of the Canadian women's basketball team. She will be a junior at Utah this fall after leading the Utes in scoring in her sophomore season.

She agrees with Thorburn that Team Canada's lack of experience will be their toughest obstacle.

"I think because it is the first Olympics for almost everyone it might be hard to not get distracted by everything that is going on because it is one of the biggest events in the world." she said.

From Edmonton, Alberta, the 6-4 small forward has been with the Canadian Team for four years, but on the women's senior squad for just a year.

As thrilled as Plouffe is to be part of the Canadian Olympic Team, she's also looking forward to seeing veterans Gabriele and Smith compete during the games.

"I am so excited to see Teresa and Kim take the floor. They are the hardest working, most resilient people I know and it has been a long journey and a battle to finally get here," she said.

She suggests Olympic hopefuls have to be able to push themselves.

"I can honestly say that all the extra time you put in, all the shots you put up, all the workouts you do when no one is watching and no one is there to push you but you, is so worth it," Plouffe said. "And if someone tells you you're not good enough or you get cut from a team, use that as motivation to get better. It worked for me!"

JAKE GIBB

A Bountiful native who became a force on the beach volleyball scene after returning from his mission, Jake Gibb is competing in his second Olympic Games with his partner Sean Rosenthal. They finished fifth in Bejing and qualified en route to winning their first Grand Slam title.

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