Best of the Best with no regrets — Lauren Jackson
Some would say Lauren Jackson’s path was set to be a basketball legend; she is the daughter of two national team basketballers and has the ideal physique for a top player. However, when we caught up with Jackson in camp at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) with her Opals team-mates, she wasn’t so sure. She thinks she always would have been a good player, but she is clear on the role the AIS played in her development and her stellar achievements.
‘This place made me ... I would never have become who I am without the AIS.’
Jackson left her Albury home at 16 to enter the AIS Women’s Basketball program. She recalls that she was very close to her family and came to Canberra with mixed emotions. Despite leaving home young, she says combining her high school studies with a daily training schedule alongside new skills such as media training helped her mature considerably.
In fact, this was a golden time for the AIS in women’s basketball. In the 1998–99 season, Jackson’s AIS team won its first WNBL premiership, something unprecedented for a teenaged team. This achievement is so significant that people still talk about it 13 years later. Looking forward, Jackson believes the future of Australian women’s basketball is bright with all of the talent coming through the AIS. She notes Liz Cambage and Jenna O’Hea as key players.
As Jackson’s skills were honed, it was her intense competitive streak that assisted her as she propelled her international career forward. While playing in the Women’s National Basketball Association league as a member of the Seattle Storm, Jackson was named most valuable player on three occasions — 2004, 2007 and 2010. Jackson is unabashed about her competitive nature, saying ‘I thought I was better than my Mum when I was 8 years old and that I should have been on the court instead of her’.
Australia will be watching, as she will no doubt be playing against her Seattle Storm team-mate, Sue Bird, who is now a member of the US team. When asked how she feels about representing her country at the London Games, Jackson labels it as ‘exciting, nerve-wracking and intense ... something that is much bigger than yourself or sport’.
The Opals are certainly on track to succeed in London. As triple silver medallists, the team has been asked many times how they are preparing and if they can secure gold for Australia. Jackson’s reply is measured and displays inner calm and wisdom. ‘A gold medal would be the greatest achievement of my life, but I am not going to have any regrets.’
The Opals left for the AIS European Training Centre in Varese, Italy, in early June.