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Candace Parker looks to 2010 world championship, 2012 Olympics

August 17, 2009 |  4:55 pm

Parker Sparks forward Candace Parker has WNBA rookie of the year and MVP awards and an Olympic gold medal to her name.

A gold medal from the 2006 FIBA World Championship is absent. That’s the year Parker, then the youngest player and only collegiate athlete on the team, took home the bronze.

On Monday, Parker and seven other WNBA players were named to the 2009-12 U.S. national team and expected to compete in next year’s world championship and the 2012 Olympic Games in London, assuming they qualify.  

“Obviously, after winning an Olympic gold medal and having it around your neck, you don’t want to finish second again,” Parker said Monday on a conference call. “Unfortunately we stumbled in the [2006] world championship. [But] I think we all had that in our heads when we went to Beijing.”

Parker returned midway through this WNBA season after giving birth to her first child, Lailaa. So far, her presence has not helped the stumbling Sparks out of their 9-13 record. Health-wise, she said, she’s “probably at 80% right now where I was last year.” After this season is over, she said, she plans to play overseas.

There will be more additions to the roster as time progresses. But for now, Geno Auriemma, the Connecticut women’s basketball coach who was named to lead the U.S. team, said he expects this current crop of players to be the foundation for the 2010 and 2012 teams.

“I just think anyone who’s competed in the Olympics and has earned the gold medal for their country automatically deserves to be added to any core group they’re talking about,” he said. “They could play their way off the team. Someone could beat them out; I don’t see that happening. From my standpoint, a certain level of respect and admiration goes to the kids who won the gold medal. I think they deserve the opportunity to be that initial core group and go from there.”

The U.S. women’s team has won four consecutive gold medals, compiling a 50-3 record in eight Olympic appearances.

“The women’s basketball program has been the most dominant team in the world,” Auriemma said. “These eight players are a major reason why that is so.... I just know if the same level of passion of winning that these eight players have shown [continues], I don’t see why the U.S. women’s basketball program can’t continue as the best basketball program in the world.”

-- Mario Aguirre

Photo: Sparks forward Candace Parker. Credit: Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times