Sisters Tamara and Alisha Tatham easily recall the wild excitement in their Brampton home as their parents rooted for Jamaican sprinters in the summer Olympics. The pomp and ceremony associated with the colourful opening of the quadrennial Games also left a lasting impression on them.
The Tathams will be part of that unique lifetime sports experience as members of Canada’s basketball team which leaves tomorrow for the London Games. It’s the first time in 12 years that this country will be represented in hoops at the summer Olympics.
To have one household member at an Olympics is quite an accomplishment. It’s rare, however, for two siblings playing the same sport to be participants at identical Games.
A total of 277 athletes are representing Canada in London.
“It’s not quite sunk in with us what we have achieved,” said younger sister Alisha who has made 96 appearances for Canada. “Our parents still have a hard time grasping the fact they have raised two Olympians. It’s such a big deal for them. I think we will get a real sense of the accomplishment when we march into the stadium for the opening ceremony. We are really looking forward to that moment that’s going to be a highlight of our lives.”
Proud Jamaican-born parents, Roy and Pauline Tatham, will be in London, waving and cheering for their daughters and Canada.
“They don’t get the opportunity to travel much to see us play with the senior team,” said Tamara who averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds as a high school senior. “They are really excited to be going to London where they will be able to see us perform. It’s quite a bonus for us to have them there and they fully deserve the opportunity. They have supported us from Day One, going to every practice and so many games we played across Canada and in the United States when we attended university. This is a big chance for us to give back something to them. My dad came to Germany last year to see me play and he absolutely loved the experience. He’s still talking about it so you could only imagine what it is going to be like when they both get back from the Olympics.”
The Tathams are among two sets of Canadian siblings at the Games. The others are the Warner brothers, Justyn and Ian, who will take part in the 100-metre and sprint relay events respectively. Justyn’s fiancé, 100-metre hurdler, Nikkita Holder, is also a member of the national contingent.
Separated in age by 14 months, the sisters are very close on and off the court. They ran track, graduated from Chinguacousy Secondary School and the University of Massachusetts and have been national teammates since 2005.
Both sisters also have European experience. Tamara played for Finnish side Catz in 2007-08 before switching to the German League four years ago. Alisha, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament in a 2009 exhibition game in Havana, played in the Swiss League in 2008-9 and in Belgium last season. She spent this year training at home.
“I practiced and played against males here and that helped my game,” said Alisha, a shooting guard who competed in the 100- and 200-metre and sprint relay events in her final season in university. “I am comfortable being at home and very happy in my comfort zone.”
Introduced to basketball by big brother Patrick who played at Cleveland State, Alisha made her Canadian debut in an exhibition series against a Cuban junior side in Havana in 2004 while Tamara wore the national colours for the first time a year later at the World University Games.
“We were our brother’s number one fan,” said Tamara, a 6’1” small forward who averaged 20.1 points with German club team Halle which was the league’s runner-up last season. “I started playing the sport because I wanted to be like him and my sister, who was into a bit of dancing at the time, soon followed. He trained us and he’s one of the biggest reasons that we are on the road to London.”
Tamara scored 5.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 14.6 minutes and Alisha recorded 4.2 points in 10.6 minutes in the Olympic qualifier in Turkey.
Canada, ranked 11th in the world, faces a huge challenge at the Games as they are in the same group with second-ranked Russia and Australia, sixth-ranked Brazil and France which is ranked eighth in the world. The other team in the group is host country England’s that’s 49th.
“There is no doubt that we are in a tough group, but I know we are ready for the challenge because we are playing our best basketball right now,” Tamara said. “We can compete with all those teams and on any given day, anyone can win. We have to do whatever we can to make sure we are the ones at the top moving on to the next round. That’s the goal for us going into these Games.”
The other group comprises top-ranked the United States, the Czech Republic, Angola, Croatia, Turkey and China. The top four teams from each group will advance to the August 7 quarter-finals.
A total of 10,500 athletes from 205 national Olympic committees will take part in 26 sports and 39 disciplines at 34 venues across England during the 30th summer Games from July 27 to August 12.