There are many moments that mould the athletes of today; they are made up of pride, disappointment, triumph, and heartache. GRAZIA speaks to the Australian Olympic team on the moments, the people and the discipline required to finally step onto the court. For first-time Olympian Ezi Magbegor, the honour is certainly not lost on her. Here she appears to celebrate the power of sport to build community and change the world.
GRAZIA: When did you realise you could take your sport to a professional level? How old were you?
Ezi Magbegor: “I was 15 when I was offered a scholarship to the Australian Institute of Sport. That was a turning point for me personally as a basketball player. It’s where my love for the game was able to grow, where I was able to develop my skills and grow into my body a little more. Being immersed in an elite sporting program opens your eyes to possibilities that you didn’t know were available to you. I had insight into life as a professional athlete and that’s when I knew I wanted to be one.”
How did you feel when you were selected to participate in the 2021 games?
EM: “Honestly, a little relieved. When I received the phone call from Sandy [the National Team coach] telling me that I had been selected for the team, I felt a lot of the anticipation leave my body. I think that relief was quickly followed by gratitude.”
“Becoming an Olympian isn’t easy. It is something that only a handful of individuals get to experience, and I am blessed to be one of them. You tend to remember a lot of your firsts, so I’ll definitely remember my first time being selected as an Olympian.”
When you step out to the court, what is racing through your mind before you compete?
EM: “I try to stay calm before a game. Over the years I’ve learnt a lot about myself and I know that I play better relaxed. So, the only thing I try to have in my mind is the scout or game plan for that game. The less I have racing through my mind the better. Obviously for a big game there are nerves. That is expected. For me, it’s aiming to transfer that nervous energy onto the court.”
In preparation for the Games, tell me three moments: Your proudest. Your most defining. Your lowest.
EM: “My proudest moment would be becoming an Olympian. 100 percent. Whenever people asked me what my basketball goals were, that was always number one on the list; to represent Australia at an Olympic Games. To be able to do that this year is something that I am extremely proud of
In retrospect, I think my most defining moment came during my junior career. While I was at the Australian Institute of Sport, I grew so much as a player, but also as a person. I think it was there where I was able to define myself as a player. I don’t think I really understood my potential, or who I was capable of becoming until then.
My lowest moment was being cut from my first Victoria Metro Team. I wasn’t at a super low point, but it was enough to spark something in me that made me ensure I did everything I could to make the team the following year. I knew I didn’t want to feel that way again.”
What does a week of training look like for you?
EM: “Training looks different throughout the year, depending on what time of the year and what competition I am preparing for. I am currently in the middle of an Opals Training Camp where we have one to two sessions a day, which are either on court or shooting or weights. Having those sessions ensures that my teammates and I are prepared for whatever competition is coming up. I think incorporating a variety of workouts into a training regime is important as it targets areas that extend off the court as well.”
On your hardest days, what drives you to keep going?
EM: “My family. I am really close with my family and I know that no matter where I am at in my life, how successful or unsuccessful I am, my family will always be there. Having to play overseas and being away from my family, there are definitely days where it gets tough. I have a big family so it’s nice to know I have five people who will pick up the phone no matter how late it is. So on the tough days I think of them.”
No matter the result, who will you be thanking?
EM: “My family. Teammates. Coaches. I always struggle with this question because there are so many people that have helped me to get to where I am today. There are so many people that rallied around me and created a community that I was a part of and am still part of. From domestic clubs to national team coaches, I will always be grateful because, as with a lot of things, it takes a village.”
The TOKYO 2020 OLYMPIC GAMES will run from July 21 to August 8. Explore more athlete stories here.