U.S. Olympians, Edwards honored

NEW YORK -- Tamika Catchings has won three gold medals as a member of the U.S. women's basketball team, the latest last month in London. But it never gets old.

"When I first get my bag with all my gear, I do the same thing every time," Catchings said. "I go up to my hotel room and I get out my jersey and my shorts and my socks, and I lay it all out on the bed. Take a picture, post it. Every time.

"When you have Team USA across your chest, you aren't just playing for yourself or your families. You are playing for the whole United States of America."

While that may seem like pressure to some, the women of Team USA carried the hopes of a nation well by winning 58 of 104 American medals at the London Games. The WNBA honored them with the annual Inspiring Women Award at a luncheon at Pier Sixty on Monday.

Venus Williams accepted the award on behalf of several Olympians who attended, including Betsey Armstrong (water polo), Paige McPherson (taekwondo), Taylor Ritzel (rowing), Danielle Scott-Arruda (volleyball), Claressa Shields (boxing), Kayla Harrison (judo), Logan Tom (volleyball) and Lauren Tamayo (cycling).

"I think we all believe in women's sports," said Williams, who won the gold medal with her sister, Serena, in doubles. "It makes me proud and happy that women like Billie Jean King have made it possible for me to have a job.

"I think we can all agree that sports make life better."

Catchings, a member of the Indiana Fever and reigning WNBA MVP, accepted a special award for the U.S. women's basketball team, which won its fifth consecutive Olympic gold.

"I can remember watching the 1996 team and that inspired me to want to become an Olympian," Catchings said. "I watched them dominate the competition. I told my parents that's what I wanted to do."

Teresa Edwards, who was a member of that 1996 team that won gold in Atlanta and served as the chef de mission for Team USA in London, has a total of five Olympic basketball medals. For her achievements, she received the first WNBA Pioneer Award.

"There is a long list of firsts for me, starting with being the first of the old ones," Edwards joked. "But, seriously, I am thankful to be a pioneer. I was happy to be in London for this Olympics, not standing in front, but standing behind a lot of great men and women."

The WNBA also awarded two $15,000 scholarships. WNBA players Alana Beard and Cappie Pondexter presented the awards to Essence Scott and Ariana Ochoa Camacho, who both study in the New York area.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, "Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts, political commentator Cokie Roberts, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and award-winning journalist Katie Couric are past winners of the Inspiration Award.