McKeesport's Swin Cash expected to be in Beijing right now.
But the former Olympian, who played with the gold medal women's basketball squad in Athens in 2004 and has since added another WNBA title to her lengthy list of accomplishments, was unexpectedly cut from this year's team July 2.
Since the start of the Games, she's been closer to home, providing commentary and doing halftime shows for women's basketball games on NBC from its New York studios, halfway around the world from her former teammates.
The news came as a disappointment to many, who thought Ms. Cash's spot on the team was a sure thing. But she took it in stride and saw it as an opportunity.
"One door closed for me making the Olympic team and another door opened," she said.
In New York, she's maintaining a grueling schedule, broadcasting at odd hours to accommodate the 12-hour time difference with Beijing and working out at least two hours a day. On her first day of work Aug. 9, she was in the studio at 3:45 a.m. and started broadcasting an hour later.
Back home in McKeesport, where Ms. Cash honed her skills on the courts in Harrison Village, she said her mother and stepfather will probably still watch her. Ms. Cash is an National Basketball Association studio analyst for ESPN in her off-season, and her mother has been known to stay up late into the night to watch her commentary.
Her former high school coach, Gerald Grayson, no longer watches her play or broadcast, but he does pray for her. Mr. Grayson, who is now a deacon at McKeesport's Bethlehem Baptist Church, prefers to remain "behind the scenes," and provides "spiritual coaching" for her.
"I'm still in her corner, but from a different perspective," he said.
The two talk about twice a year but never about basketball. They talk about life, about the church and end every conversation with a prayer.
He said he's proud of her achievements and was not disappointed when she did not make the Olympic team.
"It doesn't really make a difference. If Swin was never to win a game again, she could honestly say she is blessed," he said. "She handled that thing so well."
But more than her athletic feats, Mr. Grayson said he is most proud of the person she has become, citing her contributions to her hometown. Her charity, Cash for Kids, has helped fund extracurricular athletics and arts programs in the McKeesport area and she's working with Mayor Jim Brewster to build new basketball courts in Harrison Village.
Mr. Brewster said the plan to build the basketball courts is in motion and chose the blueprints for the courts, along with a concession stand.
"The end result will, hopefully, be a place where she can come down and run [basketball] camps," he said.
Getting more kids involved in basketball is "part of my plan to help stop violence," he said.
Mr. Brewster, who has watched her play since high school, follows her Women's National Basketball Association play closely, and said he will watch her halftime shows as a broadcaster.
"She's a great, articulate young lady and knows the game and played in the Olympics," he said.
While she relishes her opportunity to be a commentator, Ms. Cash said she deeply misses her former teammates, many of whom she played exhibition games with all of this year before she was cut.
"The experience and the friendships that I made, that's what I miss," she said.
But she has not given up on her Olympic dream altogether. She said she hopes McKeesporters will be able to welcome her home as an Olympian in 2012.
"If anything, not making this team and having to report it [has] ... made me hungrier and more focused to be playing," she said.
Plus, Ms. Cash, who boasts two NCAA championships with University of Connecticut and two WNBA championships with the Detroit Shock, needs one more gold medal, for symmetry, she said.
"I just feel to round everything out I need my second gold medal," she said.
Moriah Balingit can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2533.