Every now and then, Miranda Ayim will swallow up waves of gloom, moments of contemplation of what happened, and moments of anticipation of what’s to come.
She takes moments completely private and personal.
The veteran striker is on the cusp of making his third Olympic Games debut, ending a stellar career. As the end nears the horizon, memories and appreciation increase.
“You definitely turn into a perspective of truly appreciating the present moment, which I think we all aspire to but never get to,” this London-born said in an interview this week.
“I’m definitely in headspace in every training, every game is closer to the last time and I’m very familiar with that and I feel very lucky.
“I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by such an amazing group of people so I make sure I express that too.”
Im, 33, is now in Puerto Rico with the Canadian national team, preparing to open Saturday’s America’s Cup against the US Virgin Islands, the last major tournament before the Tokyo Games.
You remain an integral part of the team, one of its leaders, a mainstay in the program for more than a decade and someone who does not take lightly the responsibility that comes with that. She has seen the team grow to the point where it is ranked fourth in the world, an integral part of that growth and success and someone the program depends on to provide stability, leadership and context.
“I think one of the biggest things with her is that she’s a model of consistency in terms of her leadership,” said coach Lisa Thomedes. “It’s always been like this. When you speak, everyone listens.
“She is very thoughtful, she can draw on a lot of experience. She believes very strongly in the culture and identity that we have built and I think she is very intentional as she wants that to continue.”
The team representing Canada in the eight-nation event is a mix of veterans and young players representing the next wave. Teens Aaliyan Edwards and Laeticia Amihere will be thrown into the international fire alongside veterans like Ayim and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe.
“They’re at a stage where they’re young and they’re entering a completely different context and that’s why this is a good test for us because we have a lot of talent, we have a good group of ladies here who are keen to add,” Ayim said.
“It’s a generational turnaround time, so to speak, this is the new wave and I think Lisa is doing a good job of combining young sport with older experience.”
Presumed Olympians Natalia Ashunwa, Kia Nurse and Bridget Carlton with the WNBA teams, Kim Goucher remain at the team’s training center in Tampa with her family and young daughter while still grappling with the issue of Could she be away from her baby to participate in her third Olympiad.
It leaves Thomidis with a fairly new group to prepare quickly: The top three teams in the AmeriCup automatically qualify for the 2022 World Cup and there are Olympic preparations to take care of.
“We will continue to teach and grow through this competition as well,” the coach said. “We are definitely not a finished product and we have a lot of time ahead of us to make things look better.
“There are a lot of youngsters for sure. For this group, this is the first time we play together as this unit, so it will be a great experience but also building towards our ultimate goal.”
The list received a jolt on Thursday when veteran Maya Marie Langlois of Windsor guards announced her retirement After battling injuries in the past two years.
Langlois played for Canada in the 2016 Rio Olympics and the World Cup in 2014 and 2018, while playing professionally in the prestigious Russian League.
“Over the past few months, I’ve made progress in rehab, preparing for the Olympics, as well as (taking) the time to reconnect with myself,” Langlois said in a social media post. “I came to the realization that competing in the 2021 Olympics would be at the cost of my body, peace and life after basketball.”
Ayim announced to her Basket Lands teammates in France at the start of last season that she would be retiring at the end of the year and came out in short story fashion. She helped lead this team to the championship and was such a force that the organization decided to withdraw her number to honor her.
This is the kind of impact she had on her club team. It’s the kind of influence she continues to give her country.
“Outside of our leadership group, she’s the only one here, so she’s really carrying a heavy load in terms of setting an example and also speaking out and making sure we know what our culture is like and what the Canadian way is and how we deal with it,” said Thomidis.
The final and final chapter of Ayim’s career, of course, is still being written, first this week in San Juan and then next month in Tokyo.
But no matter how it ended up being played, the one undeniable fact is that Canadian basketball has done better during the years it has spent playing and mentoring young players.
In those sad moments, you take pride in what you did for the game.
“A leadership role is something I have been intentionally stepping into for the past several years and it perfectly leads to a situation like this where we have a group of women trying to take it to the next level,” Ayim said.
“I hope to lead and guide in any way possible alongside my coaches and teammates who have been around for so long.”
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