Carleton’s Olympic dream is almost within reach

Bridget Carleton (far right) cheers on her teammates during a 2019 FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament in Edmonton. November 2019. (Photo courtesy of FIBA.)

It’s a waiting game now for Chatham’s Bridget Carleton as she looks to book her ticket to the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo.

Carleton recently played a big role for the Canadian Senior Women’s National Team as they qualified for the games with three straight wins over Belgium, Sweden, and Japan. And while Carleton is confident she has a good shot at making the team, she’s not taking anything for granted.

“I played significant minutes and obviously the coaches trust me late in the game and it was a lot of close games, but I still have to work hard to make it,” said Carleton, adding the team isn’t expected to be finalized until about a week before the Olympics, which start on July 24, 2020.

The draw ceremony to determine the groups will be on March 21 and the first women’s basketball game is set for July 27.

The Canadian Senior Women’s National Team took 12 players to the Olympic qualifiers in Belgium, including Carleton, and she was a starting guard for all three of their contests.

During the first two games against Belgium and Sweden, Carleton logged the second most time on the court for the Canadians, with only Kia Nurse seeing more game action. Carleton finished third in game-time for the final matchup against Japan and was substituted into the game with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter — just as Canada was trying to hold onto a five-point lead. They went on to beat Japan 70-68 to earn a perfect 3-0 finish at the tournament.

Several members of the Canadian team that went to Belgium already have Olympic experience. Veteran forward Miranda Ayim, who was born in Chatham, is considered a lock for the squad — that would be her third trip to the Olympic games. But for some of the younger players on the team, like Carleton, making the cut would be a dream come true.

“For me, playing in the Olympics for Canada has always been my number one goal,” said Carleton. “Obviously making the WNBA was great, it was something I didn’t expect, but playing for team Canada… that pride you feel to play for your country at the Olympic games has been my goal ever since I started playing and taking basketball seriously.”

And while Carleton works hard toward achieving her own goal, a trip back home to Chatham often helps to remind her that she is inspiring other young athletes to achieve their dreams, too.

“I don’t think I realize how much I mean to a generation of kids, especially in Chatham, until I get to come back and meet them and say hi to them,” said Carleton. “I just want to lay the groundwork for what anyone can achieve… not just basketball players, but hockey players, soccer players, whatever they want to do, whatever they love… just to have someone to look up to because I had those people.”