After scoring 10 points Sunday in an 86-61 Minnesota Lynx victory Sunday, Canadian Bridget Carleton didn’t have any time to celebrate her WNBA team’s seventh consecutive victory.
The 24-year-old had a plane to catch.
Almost immediately after the contest, Carleton hopped onto a plane to join her Canadian national women’s basketball teammates in Kariya City, Japan to prepare for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games.
Carleton, her Lynx teammate Natalie Achonwa and Phoenix Mercury star Kia Nurse are all en route to Japan where they will practice with their teammates for the first time in 16 months. Because of the ongoing global pandemic and the WNBA schedule, they haven’t been able to see them in person.
We recently caught up with Carleton before she boarded her flight about reaching her lifelong goal of becoming an Olympian and balancing playing in the WNBA.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Congratulations on making the roster, Who called you to let you know you made the team, and what were you doing?
Our head coach Lisa Thomaidis randomly FaceTimed me and I never get random FaceTimes from her. Usually, it’s a text with a “Heads up, can we talk?” It was on a game day and it was at a really bad time but I answered it and she told me the news in a quick conversation. It was super exciting and they are really happy for me and it was a really fun phone call.
The Carleton household are your biggest fans. What was their reaction to the news?
My family was really excited. They had confidence in me that I would make the roster. They know how hard I have worked for this and how many sacrifices not only I have made but also they have made as my family.
They have done so much for me so as much as it is exciting for me I’m just as excited for them.
You found out you made the roster and would be heading to Tokyo with a handful of games still left on your WNBA schedule before the Olympic break. How have you been balancing that? Were you actually able to think about Tokyo or was it all WNBA all the time?
I’ve been trying to compartmentalize my mental state. I was focusing on Minnesota and finishing out our games before the break but the minute we were done with our last game before the Olympic break I’m all Team Canada.
I have worked so hard for this and to have it finally come true is unbelievable and it’s going to be an amazing feeling when I put that jersey on in Tokyo.
Your Lynx teammate Natalie Achonwa is also heading to Tokyo and will be on Team Canada with you. This will be her third Olympic Games and your first, has she offered any advice to you about what to expect? Have you two spoken about what the next few weeks will be like?
She has helped me a lot just in the preparation. She has been to two Olympics before, and obviously this Olympics will be a little bit unique and different and nobody is going to know what to expect, but I am glad I have her in my corner helping me prepare.
Little things like packing and all these forms we have to fill out. I am happy to have her and go through this together.
When most kids are playing outside when they are younger they imagine they are an Olympian or going to be at the Olympics. At what point in your life did you realize it wasn’t just a dream that this could be your reality?
Growing up when the Olympics were on that is all that was ever on our TV at our house for two weeks straight. Any Team Canada athlete in any sport we were watching and investing in, so from a young age I knew that this was something I wanted to do was to compete on the Olympic stage and compete for Team Canada.
After the 2016 Olympics, I was an alternate for that team and was at training camp. It was my first training camp for the Senior Team and I think that was when it started to become real for me that 2020 was my goal. It’s been on my mind since 2016 that it is a realistic goal for me and nothing can stand in my way except for myself and I think it’s pretty cool it’s finally coming true.
— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) July 12, 2021
The WNBA is now on a month-long break and you just reached the halfway mark in the season. What has this season been like? It looks like it’s been a big adjustment from playing the bubble in Florida last season.
It’s been interesting, that's for sure. It’s obviously completely different than the bubble season, still having to worry about the pandemic. But now it feels like we are getting closer to the end of the pandemic but we are still trying to navigate that situation as we are still traveling, still playing our games.
It’s been fun, being in Minnesota is great, being in front of fans is great and being able to be in the community has been really nice. Our whole team is vaccinated which is amazing and so it’s been fun but also learning a lot of lessons during the highs and lows of the season. We are a team that genuinely likes to play together and for each other and I think it’s starting to come together and it’s showing in our record.