Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Silver Medalist Pat Summitt

Full disclosure: I'm not a big basketball fan.

My first Olympic basketball experience is coming soon, with a ticket to the gold medal women's basketball final in Rio during the second week of the Games.

With that said, tuning in to recent news reports, one could not miss the weekend updates about the legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt and family statements about her declining health. 

This morning I woke up to the overnight headlines that Summitt died from complications related to Alzheimer's. 

Condolences are due for this accomplished athlete and coach, who I learned only today was an Olympic silver medalist on the first U.S. women's basketball team in Montreal 1976. 

Summitt later coached Team USA's gold medal follow up at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics (though she did not personally earn a gold medal, as some reports erroneously stated).

Sadly, my family learned first-hand about Alzheimer's and later-stage "complications" as my mother, Betty, died of the memory- and function-stealing disease in early 2014. 

Mom was diagnosed in early 2008, a couple of months after her 65th birthday, so she was not an "early onset" patient as Summitt was (the coach was diagnosed in 2011, before she turned 64, the demarcation line for "early onset" designation). 

But I suspect -- and don't wish this for anyone -- that Summitt's family worked through many of the same challenges we witnessed and that millions of American families experienced, or continue to endure, in the final months for an Alzheimer's patient. 

Hollywood portrayals of diagnosed characters in "Youth" and "The Descendants" give brief but accurate glimpses of the disease and the impact on family members. 

Inspired by some of the online remembrances, it's likely I'll track down a copy of Summitt's autobiography "Sum It Up" for more details on her Olympic and other accomplishments, in her words.

It would also be cool to track down the Los Angeles Times' reports about Summitt published during the 1984 Olympic women's basketball tournament to see how they reported on the team's progress and victory.

I hope that Summitt's diagnosis, treatment and foundation will continue to inspire research toward a cure for Alzheimer's or fund respite for the families managing their loved ones with this condition. 

Images: Coaching photo via this page; Montreal Olympic photo via NPR; Los Angeles Olympic photo by Pete Leabo/Associated Press; book cover photo via this page. Image below via Clarkson Creative. 


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