When she was 20 years old, at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games, Teresa Edwards became the youngest athlete to win an Olympic gold medal in women’s basketball. Sixteen years later, at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Edwards became the oldest player to win an Olympic gold medal in women’s basketball.
All told, the sensational 5-foot-11 point guard from Cairo, Georgia, played in five Olympic Games, bringing home four gold medals and one bronze.
It was one heck of a journey for Edwards, whose basketball career began when she and her younger brothers would shoot baskets in their grandmother’s front yard – the basket there was a bicycle rim nailed to a pine tree.
“We thought we were at Madison Square Garden without knowing Madison Square Garden,” Edwards said. “That’s where I learned to shoot.”
And Edwards could shoot.
A four-year starter for the Cairo High Syrupmakers, Edwards went to the University of Georgia, where she again was a four-year starter, leading the Bulldogs to Final Four appearances in 1983 and 1985, averaging 15.5 points and 5.1 assists for her career.
Edwards made her Olympic debut in 1984 as the Americans breezed to a relatively easy gold medal victory. Led by the standout Cheryl Miller, the United States won all of its games by at least 30 points.
In the 1988 Seoul Games, Edwards averaged team-highs of 16.6 points and 3.4 assists per game as the Americans claimed gold, beating Yugoslavia, 77-70, in the championship game. Four years later in Barcelona, Edwards averaged 12.6 points and 5.4 assists but the United States was upset in the semifinals and had to settle for a bronze medal.
At the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, Edwards was selected to read the Athlete’s Oath at the Opening Ceremony and two weeks later she and her teammates returned to the top of the podium. Edwards averaged 6.9 points and 7.2 assists and the United States won each of its games by at least 15 points. At the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, the 36-year-old Edwards averaged 6.1 points and 3.4 assists as the Americans again won all of their games by double figures to win gold. Edwards also was involved in the London 2012 Olympic Games, serving as the United States’ Chef de Mission.
“When you play for your national team, you wear USA, you stand on the podium, you look in the face of a player from a different country, you have just as much pride in your country and they would rather die than to lose just as much as you would,” Edwards said. “That tends to highlight what’s truly special about being able to play basketball at the highest level.”