IT’S been 21 years since Kristi Harrower played a starring role in Bendigo Senior Secondary College’s gold-medal win at the national secondary schools basketball titles in Perth.
The four-time Olympic representative was at the Bendigo Stadium last Thursday morning giving tips and an inspirational message to the BSSC Lions squads as they preapre for the national titles to be played in early December at Knox Stadium.
The workout, which focused a lot on shooting drills and some attacking tactics mirrored Harrower’s play in more than 200 games for the Australian Opals – intense and no thrills.
Once the drills were done, the Opals and Bendigo Spirit star spoke about her journey to the top of the game and ongoing desire to play as well as she can in every match.
Although she’s now in the twilight of her career, Harrower is still yearning for more success, particularly with the Bendigo Bank Spirit, which is riding on the wave of five consecutive wins and takes on Dandenong this Saturday night on the Bendigo Stadium showcourt.
Alhough she is far from the tallest or quickest to have played the game, Harrower’s workrate, competitive streak and tightly-knit support group, led by her parents and family, have kept her among her sport’s best.
“I am not the most naturally gifted basketballer,” the long-time Opals star told the BSSC squads.
“I have had to work so hard to get to where I am and stay there.”
There have been plenty of highs and a few lows since Harrower left BSSC at the end of year 11 to study at the AIS and then go on to play on courts around the world for 20 years.
She rates all Olympic campaigns as special, but this year’s in London was one of the most memorable as she fought back from a serious Achilles injury.
“There have been quite a few injuries over the years, but I had never experienced pain like it before,” the 37-year-old said of the Achilles problems which meant a vastly different training and match program leading into the Games.
“There was a lot of emotion going into the Games and to every match the Opals played,” Harrower said of competing at what would be her final Olympics as a player.
Although it was her fourth Games, Harrower said the nerves were always there.
“The first game and the quarter-final are the most difficult of the tournament,’’ she said.
“In the first you are so nervous, while a loss in the quarters means it’s all over.”
Harrower said the Opals’ loss to France in the pool rounds upped the pressure and doubts crept in as to whether Australia would be in medal calculations.
The Opals rebounded brilliantly and Harrower and her team-mates went on to claim bronze, which followed silver the brilliant guard had won at the Games in Sydney, Athens and Beijing.
The BSSC Lions will compete in division three of the boys and girls competitions at the nationals from December 2 to 6, with Harrower taking a keen interest in how they go.
BSSC’s basketball squads: Girls – Georgia Avery, Brooke Bolton, Chloe Finnigan, Maddi Higgins, Caitlyn McLachlan, Leesha Scholes, Rebekah Skrinis, Tayla Stidwell, Danni Thompson, Monica Wellington and Melissa Whitford
Boys – Aron Bimpson, Rhys Bottams, Reece Campbell, Dylan Burt, Liam Byrne, Harley Dunlop, Matt Gray, Alex Hywood, Danny Jones, Tom Kavanagh, Ben Lester, Jordan Mangan, Jake Parish, Blake Poyser and James Tate.