Anonymous, Pr Newswire
Gold medal match: U.S. vs. Brazil, 12:30 p.m. Saturday
U.S. volleyball star reaches stunning heights
- Article by: JULIET MACUR
- New York Times
- August 11, 2012 - 12:15 PM
LONDON - About an hour after leading the U.S. to the gold medal match, Destinee Hooker -- one of the most intimidating players in women's volleyball -- was in tears.
She had just led all scorers with 24 points in a semifinal against South Korea, helping the U.S. win 3-0. She also had just helped her team reach the gold medal game, Saturday against Brazil.
The realization of what Hooker had done suddenly hit her Thursday, and hit her hard.
"When I was little, there was a time when I quit; I said I don't want to do this anymore," she said. "This is a huge turnaround. I'm glad I never gave up."
Hooker, who is 24 and stands 6-3, has scored 147 points, second-most in the tournament.
On her best jump, she can get her hand 11 feet 2 inches from the ground, more than a foot higher than a basketball rim.
Yet when Hooker was 13, several youth coaches told her she would never get this far. They sent her home crying after telling her that she would never be well-rounded enough to play the sport at a high level. She could never play the back line because she was too tall and couldn't crouch low enough to play defense, they said.
"Sounds like Michael Jordan getting cut as a sophomore," U.S. coach Hugh McCutcheon said with a laugh, referring to often-repeated legend about perhaps the best basketball who ever lived.
Hooker, from San Antonio, said she took two years off from volleyball and played basketball instead. But she was drawn back in because her older sister, Marshevet, played. And whatever Marshevet did, Destinee wanted to do, too.
Marshevet was a runner, so Destinee took up high jumping. Marshevet went to the University of Texas, so Destinee went there, too.
When Marshevet tried for the 2008 Olympics in the 100 meters and made it, Destinee was crushed when she couldn't join her. She finished sixth in the high jump at the 2008 Olympic trials.
Hooker -- whose father, Ricky, was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 1983 -- still excelled as an athlete. She was a three-time NCAA outdoor high jump champion. She also led the Texas volleyball team to the NCAA championship in 2009 before it lost to Penn State.
When she watched her sister compete at the Beijing Olympics, though, it gave her the spark to train for volleyball and volleyball alone. Not long after, she found herself training for the London Games with the national team.
Hooker, an opposite hitter, shies away from taking any credit for the U.S. team's success, and she usually offers little in interviews.
Let captain Lindsey Berg speak for her: "She's incredible. She's been incredible this whole Olympics."
© 2013 Star Tribune