With memories still living so vividly inside the minds of those involved, London 2012 certainly doesn’t feel like it was 10 years ago, but today – July 28 – marks a decade since the Women’s Basketball competition got underway at the Copper Box Arena, with the Men’s event starting a day later.
Dan Clark and Jo Leedham-Warner have since gone on to cement their status as legends of the British game, both having accomplished incredible feats in their careers representing both their clubs and their nation with distinction, as they did in London 10 years ago. We caught up with them both recently to reflect on their experiences at the Games.
“In some ways it does feel like such a long time ago, but some of the memories feel like yesterday,” GB Men’s captain, Dan Clark, said.
“From a performance point of view, I think we could have done better than we did, but to be on that stage is an amazing feat and we proved we deserved to be there competing with some of the basketball powerhouses around the world.
“One of the beauties of the experience for me as a young player on a good team full of experienced heads was that any pressure or anything like that was managed by them and it allowed us younger players to really enjoy the moment and focus on playing, which was a big plus.
“Aside from the action on the court, I’ll always remember the Athletes Village experience, as well as the home crowd and support we had at all of our games. None of us had ever experienced anything like that on home soil before. The country was on a high and it was great to be a part of it.”
“On and off the court was all just an unbelievable experience.”
Leedham-Warner, who recently retired from basketball after an incredible career – which fittingly culminated in London last season with the Lions in an all-conquering season – reflected on her defining memories from the Games.
“I remember it all very vividly, and that was what was nice about being in London last season to bring the journey full circle – but also for it to hit me that a whole decade has passed since then, even though it feels like yesterday.
“As soon as we stepped in the stadium for the Opening Ceremony the place went crazy and my emotions were just all over the place. I couldn’t even walk, I was just an emotional wreck thinking that we’d actually made it after such a tough journey.
“On and off the court was all just an unbelievable experience. From the Athletes Village to kitting out day to seeing all of these incredible people walking around and everything in between and all of those moments not on court, it is just mad to think back about it all.”
“The GB slogan of inspiring a generation has certainly been lived up to.”
Of course, with such a big event on home soil, the subject of legacy is something that is inescapable. Was it all worth it? Did it have an impact? As two legends of the British game, Clark and Leedham-Warner are well placed to answer that question.
“I think overall the Olympics had the intended impact across a range of sports,” Clark said.
“The GB slogan of inspiring a generation has certainly been lived up to, and I’ve seen plenty of our current athletes across sports over the years mention that London 2012 was so big for them in terms of making them believe they could make it and things like that.
“The passion and the determination of the athletes that competed for GB at London 2012 has had a very positive effect across a lot of different sports, including basketball. In other aspects, I think building on that legacy has been perhaps slower than we’d have liked and there is still more work to do to get the sport the recognition it deserves in this country.”
“It made us realise that the Games had a bigger impact.”
For Leedham-Warner, who echoes Clark’s comments in many ways, she adds how this season playing for the Lions has somewhat changed her perspective on just how much impact the Olympic experience actually had on basketball in the UK.
“Personally, I was never really sure if the Games did have the impact we wanted it to have on basketball, and for sure there was a massive wave we could have ridden which we perhaps could have done better, but this past season I had teammates who are now in the GB team who say that the Olympics was a huge inspiration for them to get to where they are.
“Firstly, that made Z (Azania Stewart) and I feel old(!), but it also made us realise that the Games had a far bigger impact than we probably realised before then. Sometimes you feel like because something doesn’t have the impact you want, expect or think, it doesn’t mean there was no impact, because we clearly did and we’ve heard it from them and seen it.”