London Kvelling is a series of articles profiling Jewish and Israeli athletes competing at the 2012 Summer Olympics, which begins in London on July 27.
When the Olympic women's basketball tournament begins in London later this month, Israel will not be one of the participating countries. Officially, Israel will be represented in 12 sports this summer in London: athletics (aka "track and field"), badminton, artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, judo, sailing, shooting, swimming, synchronized swimming and tennis.
However, one Israeli citizen will be seeking her third gold medal on the court… this time with the United States.
Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird will represent the US in her third Olympic tournament this summer, having previously won gold in Athens in 2004 and in Beijing in 2008. This is not surprising, as Bird was born and raised in the US, growing up Long Island before going on to star at the University of Connecticut and in the WNBA with the Storm. However, the three-time All-WNBA first team performer is also an Israeli citizen, and has been for more than five years.
Bird, the daughter of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, was raised in her mother's Christian religion and attended New York prep basketball powerhouse Christ the King for her junior and senior years of high school, but obtained Israeli citizenship in 2006.
This move made it easier for her to play professionally in Europe, where the women's basketball season runs concurrently with the men's season (as opposed to the US, where the WNBA season begins during the NBA playoffs and concludes before the beginning of the NBA season). Many European leagues have rules limiting the number of Americans that can play for a team or rules dictating that a certain number of natives must be on the court at all times. Bird's Israeli citizenship has made it easier for her to play in Russia, where she took the court last season for Spartak Moscow Area, her sixth season with the club after two with Dynamo Moscow.
This season with the Storm, Bird is leading the way, averaging 14.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. Seattle has struggled to an 8-9 record, with games against the Atlanta Dream and Phoenix Mercury rounding out the team's pre-Olympic schedule this week.
J-Connection: Sue Bird's father is Jewish, although she was raised Christian and played two years of basketball at Christ the King High School.
Click here to read more Olympic Profiles in the London Kvelling Series.