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Golden girl Elena Delle Donne returns to the Sky, reflects on Rio 2016
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2016-08-25

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Elena Delle Donne returned to the Chicago Sky on Thursday morning at the team's practice facility in north suburban Deerfield, sans Olympic gold medal.

Her gold from the recently-completed Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro is locked away. No way was she bringing it, to flaunt the sixth consecutive Olympic gold won by the U.S., her first. So, her Sky teammates, coaches, staff and assembled local media will have to wait for a glimpse at her gold, but not her golden memories.

Quite simply, Rio 2016 was "the best experience of my life," said Delle Donne, 26, who has been a WNBA All-Star in each of her first three seasons and is the reigning WNBA MVP.

"It's been a really incredible month, more than I ever could have imagined. [I] spent some really quality time with some amazing players; got to experience some really cool parts of Rio, such as Christ the Redeemer, and [Olympic] events, [including] beach volleyball and swimming. [I] saw [Michael] Phelps."

It was "an emotional whirlwind," and oh-so-memorable.

The U.S. destroyed Spain, 101-72, in the finals.

"It wasn't easy, don't get me wrong," Delle Donne said. "The scoreboard might have made it look that way, but there were some really great teams that gave us their best shot, especially in the first and second quarters.

"I think the greatest thing about our team was, we had so much depth and were able to wear everyone out."

Delle Donne is one of three Olympians on the Sky as Erika de Souza and Clarissa Dos Santos were teammates for the host Brazilians. Delle Donne said she saw de Souza once while in Brazil, but did not see Dos Santos.

Delle Donne said she "felt very safe and comfortable, and able to have a really great time," while in Rio, a country she tagged as "beautiful."

Before playing her first Olympic game, Delle Donne came out regarding her engagement to longtime girlfriend Amanda Clifton in a story that first appeared in Vogue Magazine. Delle Donne received overwhelming coming-out support on social media, though she admitted that she personally was not on social media too much while in Rio.

"From what I was able to hear, people were really receptive to it, really wishing us well, which was nice," Delle Donne said. "[The coming-out] went well."

Delle Donne said that her sexual orientation "has been out there for a really long time with the people who mean the most to me, and that's really all that matters to me. Now that everyone knows, there's more hoopla and stories for a second, but it will go away in a little bit and go back to normal … I'm very happy."

So when's the big day?

Delle Donne didn't say, and added that she won't be sharing the date publically. But, she added, their marriage won't be until 2017.

And what about that moment when the gold medal was placed around your neck?

Instant chills, instant smile on her face, she said. "My dream actually came true, [it was] such an awesome feeling."

Delle Donne definitely wants to play in the 2020 Games, which will be held in Tokyo, she said.

Dos Santos, in her second season with the Sky, was competing in her second Summer Olympics ( 2012, London ), but this time was in her native country, which made the Games "amazing."

de Souza, a three-time WNBA All-Star whose career in the league dates back to 2002 when she won the WNBA Championship with the Los Angeles Sparks, said the entire Sky team is excited to see Delle Donne's gold medal. "Maybe it will give us more energy for the next Olympics," she said.


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