RIO DE JANEIRO – Ben Greve is having a good month. The former Gophers golfer won the Minnesota State Open, and is enjoying butler service on a luxury ship docked off a Rio beach.
Well, this isn’t really a case of cause and effect. Greve is married to Lynx and U.S. basketball player Lindsay Whalen and is staying with her aboard the boat that Mike Krzyzewski hates being asked about.
Six years ago, Whalen dedicated herself to making the U.S. team. She was thrilled to compete in her first Olympics four years ago in London, and is no less thrilled to be on the current team that is dominating in the Rio Olympics.
Thursday, the U.S. will face France in the semifinals (5 p.m.). Whalen may have only two Olympic games remaining in her career.
That’s why, when asked if she had spent much time sightseeing in Rio, Whalen said: “Not really. We’ve done some team activities, like visiting Christ the Redeemer together, but it’s mostly about basketball. We know what we’re here for, and we know that we don’t have that much more time left together.”
Whalen has stopped playing overseas, to save her legs for the WNBA season. She has a chance this season to help the Lynx win a fourth title in six seasons.
“I don’t think she knows what she wants to do next,” Greve said. “I think she’ll want to play as long as she can, until it’s not fun anymore. The year-round part is difficult. She may play overseas again, she may not. I would guess she might not.
“Knowing her, she will stay in the game in some way.”
Whalen’s enthusiasm for playing in the Olympics is visible. It is not unusual. The U.S. women act as ambassadors for their sport. They play hard, set the worldwide standard for basketball excellence and are as accessible as any pro athletes anywhere.
Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, Sylvia Fowles and Sue Bird have all echoed Whalen’s sentiments about refraining from Rio nightlife and tourist activities. “We know we have precious little time together,” Moore said. “That’s what matters right now.”
Whalen’s parents arrived earlier this week. They will watch the next two games in the stands with Greve, a champion golfer who does not pretend to rival his wife.
“She’s absolutely the better athlete,” Greve said. “I don’t compare to her. It would be like comparing a Hall of Fame baseball player to a guy who never made it past Single A.”
Greve has traveled with Whalen internationally before, often to Europe. When Greve played on the Canadian Tour and some mini-tours, Whalen often would watch him compete.
“With the compressed WNBA schedule, there just isn’t time for her to do that anymore,” Greve said. “Basketball keeps her very busy.”
As fan and player, they have reveled in the United States’ dominance. While the team has drawn some criticism for winning by such large margins, coach Geno Auriemma and his players have focused on their own quality of play.
They know that a loss in these Olympics would rank as one of the greatest upsets in the sport’s history. They also know that this may be the last chance for many of these players to compete together.
“I love playing for this team,” Whalen said. “Everybody accepts their role, everybody is willing to move the ball. And we feel like we’re still getting better.”