For part-two of our Road to Rio series we caught up with Rachel Jarry, a strong and skillful basketballer who has been selected in the Australian team for the 2016 Rio Olympics! Read on to find out more!
Thanks for joining us Rach! Firstly can you tell us a little about yourself, and something about yourself that not many people know?
I started playing basketball when I was 5 years old, in a mixed team. There were two boys on my team who played keepings off the girls so I probably didn’t touch the ball for the first two years that I played!
You started off playing basketball at Altona and made your international debut in 2008 when you were 17! Can you tell us about your journey from junior association to the AIS and playing on an International stage? What was your pathway like?
I started playing rep for Altona when I was about 9 years old and was lucky enough to have a great coach in Ian Hardham for a lot of my junior career. I still keep in contact with him today and he was really crucial to my development at a young age. I participated in a lot of Basketball Victoria camps and was selected in their ITC program which involved a lot of early morning trainings. When I was 14 I made my first Victorian team and competed at a national championship. From there I was invited to be a scholarship holder at the AIS in Canberra.
Had you known from a young age that you wanted to play basketball at a professional level? What is it you love about the game?
I always knew I wanted to play for Australia but it wasn’t until I was about 15/16 that I realised I could play this game as a job. Above everything else I love the friendships I’ve made and being apart of a team. Now that I’m older I also love that I get to travel and see the world doing what I love.
Can you tell us about your journey that led you to qualifying for the Olympics for the second time, when and how did you find out? How did you prepare/train to give yourself the best chance to make the team?
We spend 4 years progressing toward an Olympic games so that involves a lot of squad members and a lot of training and games. This year we have had 4 camps and 3 tours. In between these obligations we spend time training at home and working on our strength and conditioning. One of my biggest advantages in preparing is seeing Bohdan Babijczuk, who is a strength and conditioning coach but specialises in running technique. Being able to move around the court efficiently is vital for me as I’ve had some knee injuries so having Bohdan help me with my running technique has been amazing.
I found out I made the team during our last camp on the Gold Coast. It was a really surreal feeling, I was extremely proud and excited but also felt for my team mates who had missed out. Everyone sacrifices so much over a long time but obviously only 12 can make it.
I can imagine trials would be quite intense. Is that something you thrive off? What is the selection process like?
The camps and tours are pretty intense but I think our coaches do a great job on focusing us to become a better team to win at the Olympics, rather than always reminding us that we are in a selection process. The squad has a great bond and it’s always a pleasure to be with the girls. I think we just support each other through selection pressure as we can all feel it at different stages.
Can you describe the feeling when you found out that you would be heading to the 2016 Olympics? Is it different this time being your second the Olympics?
It is a little different to my first, I feel like I’ve been through a lot of adversity over the last four years with some injuries. I didn’t always believe I would get back to representing my country so I feel like I just appreciate how hard I worked to get here and I’m just really proud of myself for overcoming everything.
You competed at the 2012 London Olympics at only 20 years of age, and brought home a bronze medal! Can you tell us about that experience? Did you learn a lot that you can bring with you to the 2016 Olympics?
London was an amazing experience, I was so new to the Opals and to be competing on the biggest stage was a huge thrill. I definitely got star struck by some of the famous athletes in the village and overwhelmed by all the food choices in the dining hall! I learnt a lot about all the distractions the Olympic games can have, at the end of the day we are there to focus on our basketball games so that has to be the priority all the time.
You postponed your move to the WNBA to focus on securing selection on the 2012 Olympic team, can you tell us the thought process you went through when making this decision?
It was an easy decision, I wasn’t ready to compete at that level when I was drafted at 19 so it was a mutual decision between myself and Minnesota to wait until 2013.
Has playing basketball at the Olympics always been a dream of yours?
I have memories of watching the Atlanta games and just falling in love with the Olympics. This was also the games where the Opals won our first ever medal so I think seeing that at a young age inspired me and I always had a dream of competing on the Olympic stage.
Has anyone in particular, or a team inspired you?
Michele Timms was an inspiration for me growing up and as I’ve gotten older I’ve been able to appreciate how much she has done for Australian basketball. She was the pioneer in playing overseas and herself along with the rest of her generation has paved the way for us to be able to play in the WNBA and in Europe.
What is the next step for your career when you return from Rio?
I get about a week off when we get back and then I am heading over to play for Montpellier in the French league. Beyond that I’m hoping to return to the WNBA in 2017.
You played in the USA for the Minnesota Lynx in 2013, and a memorable rookie campaign for the Lynx saw you become just the eighth Australian to win a WNBA Championship. What was the best thing about that experience? Had you always wanted to play basketball in the USA?
Playing in the USA wasn’t a huge goal of mine but once I was drafted it became a big focus for me. I had a fantastic experience in 2013, championship teams are always special and that Lynx team was just so much fun to be apart of. On court we had amazing chemistry and some of the best players in the world but I really loved how well we got along off the court.
You are now home in Australia playing for South East Queensland, how does the Australian league (WNBL) compare to the WNBA?
The WNBL has always been a strong league and I think over the last couple of years we’ve had girls return from Europe in order to give the Olympics their best shot by playing at home. The standard has really improved as a result of this, our players are fit and strong and we have quality offense and defense. Our league isn’t fully professional so a lot of girls have to work outside of the WNBL and I have a lot of admiration for those girls as the clubs still demand a big commitment from the entire team.
Who is your favourite basketballer/ athlete?
As well as Michele Timms, I grew up watching players like Robyn Maher, Sandy Brondello and Michelle Brogan. I was also inspired by Lauren Jackson and Penny Taylor who are two of the greatest basketball players Australia has produced. I’m lucky enough that I have got to play alongside of both of them which was a dream come true as well.
If you had a bucket list, what would be number one?
I get to travel around the world a lot but I always believe that we have the best country in the world right here. On top of my bucket list would be to travel around Australia and see every inch of our amazing country.
Where can we find you when you’re off the court?
You’ll find me at a café, or in summer I’ll be at the beach. I do love going to the movies and I’m a bit of a horror movie buff.
Lastly, what three words describe you the best!
Passionate, loyal and fun!
Thank you so much again for featuring Rach! The team at Circus Media wish you and the Opals all the best at the Olympics.