Kim Gaucher has come a long way.
From Mission basketball product to 2015 Pan Am Games gold medalist, the 31-year-old guard summarized the latest victory as a historic win for the Canadian women’s national team — and it certainly was.
This is the first gold medal finish for the Canadian women’s basketball team at the Pan Am Games. They last medaled at the Games in 1999, in Winnipeg, where they lost to Cuba in the finals to claim silver. The Canadian women’s team has only won one other major international competition, which was in the 1995 FIBA Americas Championship.
On Monday, Canada toppled the Americans, 81-73, in the women’s Pan Am basketball final in front of a sold out crowd at Ryerson Athletic Centre in Toronto.
“This was the first time playing in Canada on such a stage,” said Gaucher, who tallied five points and five rebounds, shooting 33 per cent from the field.
“To have the crowd there, chanting, it was great. The atmosphere [was] intoxicating. There were even scalpers,” she said, laughing.
Gaucher said, the tournament’s scheduling was tough in that they played five games in five days, from July 16 to 20.
The women went undefeated, finishing 3-0 through preliminaries before downing Brazil, 91-63 in the semi-finals. Gaucher finished with a 7.4 points-per-game average and 27 rebounds through the tournament.
And though they met the U.S. in the final, she contends Cuba, who Canada beat by a slim three-point margin in the preliminaries, was the team’s most difficult opponent.
“Athletic plus savviness,” she said to describe the Cuban squad.
CEO of the BC Games Society, Kelly Mann, said, “The strength of the provincial sport system is evident as we see the progression of athletes towards events like the Pan American Games,” adding, “We know that our alumni draw upon that experience as they represent Canada at international Games.”
Mann’s comment is undoubtedly on par with Gaucher’s experience.
She recalls her time playing in the 1998 BC Summer Games in Ridge-Meadows.
“Being in any multi-sport tournament, sleeping in quarters with other athletes, it’s so much fun. I have fond memories of the Games,” said Gaucher.
“That kind of exposure at a young age helped me prepare for bigger events as the stage just keeps getting bigger.”
The Mission native competed at the 2014 FIBA world championship, the FIBA Americas in 2013 as well as the London 2012 Olympic Games, among other renowned events.
She currently plays professional basketball in France, in the country’s top women’s league, for club ASPTT Arras.
Next up for the Canadian women’s team is the FIBA Americas being held in Edmonton. It is the closest opportunity for the squad to punch their ticket to the 2016 Olympics and with the home crowd advantage, it may prove the best opportunity as well.