The Olympics wanted to leave a legacy behind once the Games were finished and that was to encourage more people, particularly children to take up sport and enjoy a fun and active lifestyle. To a lesser extent, there was a focus for the kids to have the opportunity to enjoy other sports as well – that there was more on offer than just football.
To the athletes taking part, they took that message to heart; none more so than Great Britain women’s basketball captain Julie Page.
Just being part of the Olympic experience, donning the GB tracksuit with an athletes accreditation over her neck and living in the village was something that the Manchester-born forward will never forget, and even though she lives and breathes the game of basketball, especially playing for her country, so inspired with competing at the now bare Basketball Arena and seeing thousands of Union Jack flags waving, Page wanted to continue the Olympic tradition and help others.
This year, Page’s name wasn’t featured in Damian Jennings’ squad list for the upcoming Eurobasket Women. She had announced her international retirement after the Games and has since found the “post-Olympic hangover” a difficult move.
“The transition after the Olympics was actually really difficult,” she admits. “It’s hard to put into words exactly why, but it’s such a life changing event that I felt slightly lost coming out the other side. I’ve made some rather big life changes also which has been a challenging step.
“However, all in all, I think I’m going in the right direction, down the path of teaching, to continue the London 2012 legacy, inspire a generation.”
And inspire she has done. Page gained the necessary qualifications to become a teacher at a school in Manchester where she uses her past-basketball experiences to help others, so that they can enjoy the game, hopefully for years to come.
Her career on the court isn’t 100 percent over. Page states that she would keep playing until “her knees dropped off”. She was part of the all-conquering Sheffield Hatters side last season that won all the trophies on offer and finished undefeated in the process. In the 70-57 playoff final win against Barking Abbey; Page was crowned the game’s MVP with 13 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks.
“Playing at Sheffield [last] season has been so much fun,” Page said. “The pressures of being a professional didn’t apply, but most of all, being able to play the game I love and be surrounded by the people I love, well it’s just the most perfect combination.”
Her passion, post-Olympics though has been the very thing that London 2012 stood for. She wanted to encourage others to play the game of basketball and at the same time enjoy an active lifestyle, which is something all sports aim to do, and in Page’s case, through teaching.
“Seeing young adults connect and enjoying the physical activity is so rewarding,” Page explains. “At Manchester Communication Academy the staff are trying to build a sporting culture within the school, it’s something I’m really excited to be a part of.”
For sure Page’s main focus is education but her love of basketball and especially Great Britain’s progress is on her mind as well. Her former colleagues, led by Kim Butler have begun preparations for Eurobasket Women next month in France where they face Serbia, Latvia and the hosts themselves. GB lost their opening two warm-ups to a determined Belarus side but come home for their first games on British soil since the Olympics, as they face Israel, Germany and Greece in a mini invitational tournament at Surrey Sports Park in Guildford.
While it pains Page not to be there, not being on the court with her team-mates and unable to do anything apart from sit and cheer them on, she is confident that the program under new coach Damian Jennings is in good hands.
“GB women have achieved a lot, and produced amazing results. I have no doubt this will continue,” Page said. “The older players will bring a wealth of experience, and the younger players will bring fresh legs and eager enthusiasm.
“Bringing Damian [Jennings], Ken [Shields] and Vanessa [Ellis] back to work as the coaching staff will bring much needed consistency to the program. Also with Damien as head coach he can build on the legacy already in place, as he’s been a part of the team already. I think this fluid transition will prove vital with such a short preparation camp to the Eurobasket.”
Great Britain’s rebuilding phase has begun for both men and women, but Page hopes to educate and nurture the next batch of stars, whether they are male or female in the hopes that they can represent a successful and proud national team.
Great Britain’s game in Guildford against Germany on Sunday 26th May will be the nation’s 100th international game. And to mark the occasion, the game will be streamed on the GB website (www.gbbasketball.com). The game tips-off at 18:00 CET (17:00 Local).