Elena Delle Donne intends to go to the Rio Olympics regardless of the risk of contracting the Zika virus, the Chicago Sky forward said Wednesday.
"The Olympics have been a lifelong dream of mine and I would be going no matter what," Delle Donne told host Julie Foudy at the espnW Women + Sports Chicago summit at Morgan Manufacturing Innova Lab in West Town. "USA Basketball sat is down and talked to us, and we will be as best prepared as possible."
Health is a concern for Delle Donne, who has suffered from Lyme disease. She lost between 25 and 30 pounds during college because of her illness, she recalled to Foudy on Wednesday. "It's kind of a second job just staying healthy," she said.
Before Rio can become a reality, however, Delle Donne first has to make the cut from 25 finalists when Team USA announces its roster of 12 women on April 27.
Delle Donne admitted she worried about fitting in while training with her Olympic teammates, and often deferred to them on the court in the interest of being perceived as a team player. That is, until three-time Olympic gold medalist and Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings asked, as Delle Donne recalled, "Why are you passing so much? No. We want you to do what you do best."
Delle Donne also addressed the looming question about her relationship with Olympic team coach Geno Auriemma. She famously spurned his Connecticut team to take a break from basketball and ultimately played for Delaware in her home state. The Sky star dismissed the notion of lingering hard feelings.
"We've always had a great relationship. He's always been respectful of my decision," Delle Donne said, adding that Auriemma has "guarded me and protected me."
But Foudy, herself a former Olympic gold medalist, pressed her: Certainly there had to be some awkwardness.
"Maybe that first hug was a butt-out hug," Delle Donne said, drawing laughter from the crowd of 265. "But we figured it out from there."