Danielle McCray Blogs About Her Gold Medal Experience
July 13, 2009
BELGRADE, Serbia –
Back at you again as I leave Belgrade, Serbia. Being gone almost a whole month away from home is by far one of the hardest things I have had to do. I have been missing all my family and friends. It has been a struggle, but my USA teammates have made it a lot easier. I can say this trip has been one of the best trips of my life. I have learned a lot about different countries and I have met and taken pictures with over a thousand new faces. This trip has been a adventure, and something that will definitely be a once in a life time experience for me.
Friday, July 10
Waking up anytime we want was amazing. Today we are having a light mental day. Yesterday we beat Australia to earn the right to play in the gold medal championship game. I love that word, Championship. I can now say I have been a part of two Championship games in the last four months. In April I was able to compete in the WNIT Championship game and now it’s July and I am competing in a World University Games Gold Medal Championship game. I have truly been blessed.
I woke up about 9:30 a.m. Yeah, I know I said we could wake up anytime we wanted and 9:30 is pretty early for me, but we all came to the conclusion that the earlier you get to the café the more options for food you have. So with that said, we have been trying to get to breakfast early then rush back to get some rest. That has been our daily plan. After breakfast we rested up until about 12:45 p.m.m, and then went to film. After film we headed to practice for about 45 minutes. It was great. I don’t remember the last time I had a 45 minute practice! Coach Charli had us do some break down drills to get ready for Russia. It was an easy breezy walk through practice with a lot of mental teaching points. After practice was over, one of the Serbian police officers named Goron, challenged me in a free throw and hook shot game. Of course I took on the challenge. The challenge was who ever makes four free throws and one hook shot first wins. So we started and I made all my free throws while he was bricking his and when it was time to make a hook shot I started struggling. He caught up to me and then finally on my third hook shot I banked it in. I jumped up and did a victory lap around the gym! I was the only one on our team to beat him in the challenge. After that we loaded the bus to head back to our village. Nothing else was planned after practice so we had a free day. A teammate and I decided to check out the bowling spot in the mall. We bowled for about an hour. It was fun. After bowling we ate and chilled back at the village. When we thought all the teams were back in the village from competing in their sports, we all went out to trade gear. I can say trading gear was the most intense thing! There were so many people carrying bags of gear to trade. I had a back pack full, but I was being real picky about the things I wanted. I did a great trade with a Turkish guy. I gave him my USA practice jersey for a nice Turkish track jacket. After trading gear, we called it a night to get ready for the day we have all been waiting for.
Saturday, July 11
I was so anxious, I couldn’t even sleep last night! I was so hyped up last night it was ridiculous. The only other time I have been this ready to get things rolling for a game was the WNIT Championship game. Today is the day that I have been working so hard for. It has finally come and we all are ready for the challenge. I got some breakfast and then we had a walk through. I was so ready for the game to begin. I got some rest before pregame and then it was on to the game! Wow is the word of the moment! We beat Russia and received the gold medal for the World University Games! This has been the biggest accomplishment of my career. I can’t even explain how good I feel right now!! It really hasn’t sunk in that much yet, but I am so happy right now. This has been a tremendous experience. After the buzzer went off we all ran to half court and I jumped on Jantel Lavendar as she spun me in the air. I looked at everyone and it was nothing but smiles. Our coaches were very happy with us and excited that we achieved our goal. After hugs and smiles we had to line up in the tunnel and wait for the awards ceremony. Waiting in line reality was starting to sink in a little bit. I kept asking myself did I really win a gold medal? After about 10 minutes, once they cleared the court we walked out with the two other teams receiving medals. The Australian Team won the bronze medal and Russia took the silver. We lined up in the tunnel in the order of the place we took. As we exited the tunnel we heard nothing but cheering and loud horns and fans shouting U-S-A!! This was the greatest moment. I had always wanted to be a part of representing my country and winning the gold medal. We walked in a single file line onto the court and stood about five inches back from the stage that we had to stand up on. At first a lady did an introduction speech as everyone listened and then announced the teams. Australia received the bronze medal first, then Russia received their silver medals. It was then our turn and we all held hands and stepped forward onto the stand and threw our hands up. It was the coolest thing. Having seen on television how it was when you receive your medal I was ready! The president of FISU stood in front of me and shook my hand as I bent over so he could wrap the gold medal around my neck. As he went to my teammate that stood next to me a lady with flowers came and handed my some really beautiful flowers. After everyone received their flowers and gold medal we all went to the lockerroom and took thousands of silly pictures and signed each others jerseys. That moment was very special to me. I was a very proud American!! After about an hour of celebrating in the lockerroom, we all went back to shower and eat. The coaches took us out to eat for a nice last meal together and more celebrating. To wrap things up–this trip has been by far one the best trips I have ever taken. I have learned so much. My experience with the USA team has been amazing. We all did what we said we were coming to Serbia to do and that was to win the gold medal. I am headed back to the states and I will celebrate it some more with friends and family and then get back to preparing for my last season as a Jayhawk. I think this great success that I have experience will transfer over to a successful season for the Kansas Jayhawks!
And for you fans who have been keeping up with my blogs while I have been in Serbia, I want to thank you and I hope you enjoyed them all. I did my best to let you know about all of our amazing experiences! I cant wait to see you all in the stands next year as we work hard to do great things at KU!
Until then, Rock Chalk Jayhawk!