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Courtney comes home: Kent's Thompson savors silver moment at London Games
By TRACEY COMPTON
Courtney Thompson is still getting used to being called an Olympian.
Thompson, an accomplished setter in volleyball, is back home after doing her part in Team USA's silver-medal finish at the London Olympics.
"This has been such a fun summer and so surreal," Thompson told the Kent Rotary Club at a luncheon Tuesday.
"Going to the Olympics was amazing."
Born in Bellevue and raised in Kent, Thompson starred at Kentlake High School and the University of Washington before embarking on an international career that includes her first Summer Games experience.
She was invited to speak to the Kent Rotarians, of which her dad, Steve, is a member.
Thompson, 27, spoke about her unforgettable experiences, passed around her silver medal and posed for pictures.
Dawn Colston, a Rotarian and one of Thompson's first coaches, introduced her to the crowd. Colston has been close to the Thompson family for the past 16 years and is proud and excited that someone as deserving as Thompson made it to the Olympics.
"I don't think I'm surprised because I had a lot of high expectations for her because of all her great attributes that she has," Colston said.
Colston traveled to London to watch Thompson compete.
"It was amazing to see her out there and accept the roles she was given at each time," Colston said. "Her role changed throughout the time she was in London, and she just took it on in stride and succeeded at it."
When called upon, Thompson delivered.
Thompson started at setter in the quarterfinals for injured starter Lindsey Berg. But Berg returned to her starting role in the semifinals and finals despite an injured Achilles. Berg said she plans to retire now that the Olympics are over.
The U.S. came up short in pursuit of its first gold medal in women's volleyball, falling to Brazil in the finals, 11-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-17
The U.S. finished the tournament with a 7-1 record and 30-2 record in 2012.
In the four years leading up to the Olympics, Thompson was on the national team, but hadn't made any of the big tournaments. With a coach telling her there was a slight chance she would make the London team, Thompson said it was the power of hope that kept her motivated.
One day Berg, the team captain, asked Thompson why she turned out to practice every day with such a slim chance of making the final roster.
Thompson's response: "If I'm here, I've got to do it."
That determination and focus on making an impact and influence on the team paid off.
Thompson said she felt like a "superhero" at the opening ceremonies, dressed up with all the other U.S. athletes. She fulfilled a dream.
Thompson plans to play volleyball in Poland for seven months, then return to training with the U.S. team next summer.
A gold medal at Rio de Janeiro Summer Games in four years is in her sights.
In the meantime, Thompson remains a down-to-earth young woman who's proud of her Kent roots.
"I love it," she said of her hometown. "I talk about Kent all the time. I think my teammates are sick of hearing about it, but it's who I am. It's where we came from, and it's really, really important to me."
Kent has helped bring out the best in Thompson.
The 5-foot-8 Thompson led Kentlake to three high school state volleyball titles from 2000 to 2002 and was the high school player of the year in the state in 2002. As a UW junior in 2005, she earned the Honda Sports Award for best volleyball player after leading the Huskies to their first national championship.
"It's where a lot of my motivation comes from – to give back to the city that I'm from and to just stay connected with it," Thompson said.