Kim Gaucher had planned to hang up her Canadian national team jersey after the 2016 Rio Olympics.
But walking off the court after a heartbreaking 68-63 quarter-final loss to France that cost Canada a chance at an Olympic medal, Gaucher couldn’t help but feel there had to be more.
“It certainly didn’t really end the way I would have wanted it to end,” Gaucher said in a phone interview from Edmonton. “It was actually one of the first things my husband [Ben] said to me, when I was obviously feeling very sorry for myself. He was like ‘Hey, it doesn’t have to be over. You don’t have to end like this. You can do whatever you want, if you still want to put time in, you can still try it.’“
A national team member since 2001, the 34-year-old from Mission, B.C., took last season off to focus on her professional club USO Mondeville in France, but is back in camp in Edmonton as a guiding hand for Canada’s young women’s team.
The Canadians, a program-high fifth in the FIBA world rankings, host No. 7 Turkey in three exhibition games beginning on Wednesday at Saville Community Sports Centre.
The women are in the first of three camps ahead of the women’s World Cup, Sept. 22 to 30 in Tenerife, Spain, where they hope to climb the medal podium.
Canada had high hopes for a medal in Rio, their second consecutive Olympic appearance. Gaucher, Canada’s captain, had a team-high 15 points in the quarter-final against France, but the Canadians’ offence dried up in the fourth quarter.
Back in Mondeville, a town in northern France where she and her husband live, Gaucher’s club team was doing well. She signed a new three-year deal last year and figured, since she’d committed to her club team, she might as well give Canada one last shot as well.
“It [was] like ‘Oh, okay, well I guess if I’m still going to be playing for three more years, then we’ll see,’“ Gaucher said. “I’ve always said, for me, Canada has always been the most important, so if I was still playing and if I was still able in any way to contribute to help the team, then I would love to try.”
She reached out to women’s head coach Lisa Thomaidis to see how she might fit into Canada’s young, athletic squad. Thomaidis said she was thrilled to have the veteran 6-foot-1 shooting guard back in the fold.
“It’s amazing to have her back in, she’s just such a strong leader and such a great role model, especially for some of these younger athletes we have in this camp,” Thomaidis said.
The Canadian team has gone through a metamorphosis since a handful of post-Rio retirements. Blessed with young, athletic women – Kia Nurse, Nirra Fields and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe are just three – the Canadians play at a faster clip that Gaucher believes will be a game-changer.
“It’s about getting out and using the athleticism and the skill sets with the team now,” Gaucher said. “It’s been fun to see because I think that we definitely have the roster that can embrace that and can excel at that.
“We’ve always been a very good defensive team, but now our defence is also creating points for us, which is kind of cool to see – just the steals and the pressure that some of these younger guards can get out and put on is very impressive. It’s been just kind of seeing how I fit in in all of that.”
Gaucher also does some coaching with her club in Mondeville and speaks fluent French. Her husband is a coach with one of the club’s development teams and does some work as a sports agent.
“It’s a smaller family club and they really like me there, and I’m able to do some different things as well besides just playing, so I’ve enjoyed that. And it’s kind of helped give me new life,” Gaucher said.
The Canadians will have two more camps before heading to the World Cup, where they hope to capture their first medal since they won bronze in 1986. Canada was fifth in 2014.
The three-game series against Turkey – the Edmonton Grads International Classic – is Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.