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Sky Mon Jul 16 2012

WNBA Duo Set to Represent Chicago in Olympics

chicago sky logo.gifBefore the final WNBA game before a month-long Olympic break, the Chicago Sky took time Friday night to honor its two London-bound stars.

Forward Swin Cash and center Sylvia Fowles received roses and a standing ovation from their teammates, coaches and fans. The cheers and whistles of the crowd reverberated through Allstate Arena so loudly that the announcer could barely be heard as he presented Chicago's newest Olympians.

Cash is a recent addition to the Sky lineup, having been traded from Seattle in January. She first competed in the Olympic Games in 2004 in Athens, where she claimed 44 points and her first gold medal. After helping lead Detroit and Seattle to championships (and winning big at UConn as well), she has been a great addition this season.

Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot described Cash as a leader and source of encouragement. "Swin's always the one to bring us together when times are bad, and when times are good," Vandersloot said after Friday's game.

A series of injuries kept Cash from being in top condition for 2008, but she was never far from the action, serving as an ESPN commentator for the games in Beijing. She'll be drawing from these experiences as she takes the Olympic court once again.

"I always think that being a commentator gives you a different insight and perspective when you're on the floor versus off the floor," Cash said, "I'm hoping that all those things will help something click in my head and I'll be playing at the level I know I can play at."

Fowles has spent her four-year WNBA career with Chicago. It was during her rookie season that she led the 2008 Olympic team in points with 107. Nicknamed "Big Syl" (and at 6'6" it's no wonder), she commands the paint, claiming rebounds the instant the ball slips from the edge of the hoop.

Though a fierce competitor, her off-court demeanor is warm, even gentle. As the games draw near, Fowles has confidence in Team USA and said she tries not to overanalyze their gold-medal chances.

"We've got a nice group of young ladies. ... My main focus is just to go in and help out the best I can," she said.

Fowles said she's looking forward to the whole Olympic experience, on and off the court. "I really want to see track and field," she said. "And eat."

Chicago's two Olympians have been playing together for about seven months, but they've been able to build "a really good relationship," Fowles said. "Swin is not hard to get along with."

Teammate Carolyn Swords described both players as mentors, using their experience to guide the younger players.

"Swin is very conscientious of seeing where I'm at and what I'm doing and offering her advice, teaching and encouraging," said Swords, a second-year center. "And playing with Syl every day has helped me to be so much better and stronger."

While the two are playing, the Sky will be watching, said Vandersloot, "We're going to have a viewing party and we'll watch together and cheer them on."

The U.S. women will be competing for their fifth consecutive gold medal this year. "It would be good," said Fowles, "not just for us and my family and friends, but for the fans here in Chicago."

Still, they show a steady focus on their game both internationally and locally. "When we come back I just want to get with my teammates and hit the ground running," Cash said, "They'll be here practicing and getting ready and hopefully Syl and I can get fused right into that and make our playoffs."

Friday's final pre-Olympic game featured videos from teammates and head coach Pokey Chatman wishing Cash and Fowles well and reminding them to bring home the gold. The Sky suffered a tough overtime loss to Connecticut on Friday, but the women will hopefully return to Chicago in a month with renewed spirits, and just maybe some shiny new jewelry hanging around their necks.

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