LIMERICK basketball player Rachael Vanderwal has been selected in the Great Britain’s women’s basketball team for the Olympic Games later this month.
The star University of Limerick player was honoured as the 2012 Irish women’s SuperLeague basketball player of the year following the all-conquering season for the local senior women’s side.
The 29-year-old point guard, who is originally from Canada but qualifies for Great Britain as her mother is English, has lived in Ireland for the last seven years and teaches PE at North Presentation Secondary School in Cork city.
Vanderwal is in her third season with the UL Ladies team, who won the 2012 National Cup and league titles.
Last September, the Limerick player was confirmed in a squad of 24 players by Great Britain Head Coach Tom Maher, who has coached at four previous Olympics. After their final training camp, the squad was cut to 12 this week with Vanderwal making the final selection.
The UL player and her Great Britain colleagues play five-time Olympic champions USA in their final warm-up game in Manchester on July 18.
Their first outing in the Olympics will be on July 28 against former silver medallists Australia.
They will also be guaranteed games against former World champions Russia and sixth-ranked Brazil.
Vanderwal has praised the work of UL coach James Weldon to help her achieve her Olympic dream.
“Not only is James (Weldon) a great coach, but a great person. After our season, he drove from Limerick to Cork three times a week to put me through my paces in individual basketball sessions, which really helped get me ready for the camp,” she explained.
“It’s still hard to believe that I am actually going to the Olympics. I get goosebumps saying it,” she said.
“It finally sunk in the day we received our Team GB Olympic gear. To get this amazing opportunity is unbelievable. I am going to cherish and enjoy every minute of it.”
The Limerick coach said that the recognition was well deserved.
“I was delighted to hear the good news. Rachael’s probably the most hardworking coachable player I have ever coached,” said James Weldon.
“I wasn’t really worried about the final cut because, when I went to the team camp for a week to watch practice, I was sure she would make it. That, plus the great feedback the Great Britain coaches gave me about Rachael,” said the UL coach.