TALLAHASSEE, FLA. (Seminoles.com) – Maria Conde (Florida State University – 2015-17) and Leonor Rodriguez (FSU – 2009-13) make their Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics debut on Sunday evening as Spain faces South Korea at 9 p.m. ET (10 a.m. Tokyo time on Monday) on NBCOlympics.com.
“It’s been a process,” Rodriguez said of getting used to COVID protocols at this year’s Olympics. “Even before FSU I started playing pro so I got a little of the feeling about it (playing before crowds). Obviously in the States, college basketball is a different level and there’s a lot of crowd and it’s always exciting. We play pro overseas, we’ve been playing with the national team for a few years now. I was lucky enough to go to the Rio Olympics.
“You cannot feel the crowd. You just think of the game and try to enjoy it and do your best, rather than think about all the people or the pressure it could have in the game.”
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Rodriguez’s second Olympic stint figures to be different, but the experience she has cannot be underscored enough as she was part of Spain’s history-making 2016 squad in Rio. At those games, the Spanish Olympic Team reached the medal podium for the first time ever, earning silver.
“I just feel very fortunate. Very lucky and very blessed,” Rodriguez added. “I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and keep working and keep living day by day and improve a little bit. Just enjoy today because that’s for sure. It’s such an opportunity and privilege to be here that I just want to take it all in and go from there.”
The feeling Rodriguez had in her first Olympic moments from 2016 is the feeling Conde holds as she makes her debut in Tokyo and is coming off her first Olympic Ceremony the night before. After two years at FSU, the native of Madrid decided to turn professional in 2017 and has blossomed from there.
“Everyone, especially (Leonor) who has been through the Olympics before, they’re trying to make sure it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Conde said. “Maybe you won’t repeat again, so just enjoying every day and being sure to press in the moment. It’s easy to go through the motions and you’re here and you may miss things that never happen again. They’re really trying to make sure that we’re enjoying everything we’re going through.”
In order for Spain to reach the Olympic quarterfinals, it must finish in the top two of its group stage which also includes South Korea, Serbia and Canada. While embracing every moment that comes with being Olympians, both have not lost sight on the task at hand, starting with getting out of its challenging group.
“I think our focus is going game by game,” Rodriguez added. “It’s a different kind of championship with no crowd. It’s only 12 teams – 12 national teams that are lucky enough to be here. Every game is going to be a battle. I think we want to focus on our group – that’s our first goal and then we will move from there. We’re enjoying every day on the court representing our country.”
As loyal Alums to the FSU Women’s Basketball program, both players kept an eye on the past year that included the single-season absence of Head Coach Sue Semrau and the ascension of Brooke Wyckoff as Interim Head Coach. The result was extending FSU’s streak of NCAA Tournament appearances to eight consecutive seasons, making the Seminoles one of 10 programs nationally to have such a streak.
“She played a big role in recruiting us from Spain,” Conde said of Wyckoff. “I was very happy for her, and also because being a coach and a Mom at the same time, I think she’s done an amazing job, and seeing her daughter grow, it’s unbelievable. The fact that she was able to hold everything together this (past) season, it was great for her. It was great for her to have the opportunity and how she responded to it.”
Conde and Rodriguez are two of 23 Olympians with FSU ties competing in this year’s Games. It also marks the second consecutive Olympics that the Spanish National Team has boasted multiple FSU athletes, as Rodriguez and Leticia Romero (2014-17 at FSU) played in Rio in 2016.
SPAIN OLYMPIC TEAM SCHEDULE (GROUP STAGE ONLY):
• vs. South Korea (July 25 @ 9PM ET)
• vs. Serbia (July 29 @ 4:20AM ET)
• vs. Canada (July 31 @ 9PM ET)