Carleton prepares for action-packed summer

Bridget Carleton with the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA. (Photo courtesy of @minnesotalynx via. Twitter)

A pro basketball player from Chatham is enjoying a little bit of rare downtime at home before gearing up for the Olympic games this summer.

Later this year, Bridget Carleton will be packing her bags and heading to Tokyo with her Canadian Women’s National Basketball teammates. In February 2020, the team scored an 80-50 victory over Sweden to secure their spot in the 2020 Women’s Olympic Basketball Competition.

In addition to getting a ticket to the summer Olympics, The Canadian Women’s National Basketball team is currently ranked fourth in the International Basketball Federation, the highest it’s ever been ranked.

“It’s fun to be a part of for sure,” said Carleton. “With the pandemic, we were playing our best basketball last time in February of 2020 and we haven’t been together since. It’s been difficult in that aspect but we’re still excited and ready to go for this summer.”

One month after Team Canada’s victory, the Olympics were pushed back a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and are now set to be held from July 23 until August 8, 2021.

Carleton said after working towards securing an Olympic spot, the news of the games being postponed was disappointing at first but she recognizes it was the right choice to make.

“We had been so focused on 2020 since essentially 2016. After the Rio Olympics ended, our sights were set on 2020. I think it just builds some more excitement though for this summer and more focus,” she said.

Besides playing with the Canada national team, Carleton also plays for the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA. The 6’1″ guard has been back home in Chatham since Christmas but only has a few more weeks before basketball action is back in full swing.

“It’s going to be a little bit crazy. But that’s the life of a professional athlete and I wouldn’t want it any other way,” she said.

According to Carleton, WNBA training camp starts in April. She’ll be in Minnesota into the summer before leaving for Japan to meet with her Team Canada teammates just a few weeks before the Olympics kick-off.

“Then it will just be full-on Team Canada mode for that whole month,” she explained. “Training for two weeks and then the Olympics for two weeks.”

Despite getting ready to play on the world’s stage, the 23-year-old hasn’t forgotten about her hometown.

When she was home in Chatham last March, Carleton ran a basketball camp. This time around, Carleton got to spend time with the young players of the Chatham-Kent Wildcats while she was in town.

Although she doesn’t get to come back home very often, Carleton said her top priority when she’s in Chatham is giving back to the community that gave her so much.

“I was a Chatham-Kent Wildcat from Grade 3 to Grade 9 and grew a lot in that time, fell in love with the game of basketball during that time,” she said. “Any way I can give back, I want to be able to do that. I tell them all the time that I was in their shoes when I was their age I was doing the exact same thing they’re doing now, the sky’s the limit, they can do anything they want.”