Twice the Talent
Born and raised in Edmonton, elite athletes Katherine and Michelle Plouffe are taking Canada's National Women's Basketball team to the top
Thursday, Jul 09, 2015 06:00 am
Support the Team
Even though they are twins who grew up together, attended the same high schools and played on the same basketball teams, Katherine and Michelle Plouffe have had distinct athletic careers. At over 6’3” tall, both women stand out in any crowd, but their stature as basketball players is even bigger. The 22 year-old twins are members of Canada's National Women's Basketball team, which is competing in two big events in Canada this summer: the Pan Am Games and an Olympic qualifier. “Those who put 'Canada' on their chest don't suit up for themselves," says Katherine Plouffe. “We play for our sport, our families, our cities and our country."
The sisters have been part of Edmonton’s basketball community since high school. Both women were members of Canada's National Elite Development Academy, won city and provincial championships with Harry Ainley High School, and were named High School City All-Stars. As players on provincial teams, the twins won multiple championships and honours. Their paths diverged sharply when they went to university. Katherine went to Marquette University in Milwaukee, where she played for the Golden Eagles. Michelle played for the Utah Utes at the University of Utah. Even though the Canadian team is based in Edmonton and trains at the University of Alberta's Seville Centre, much of their training occurs on the road as they compete. Katherine and Michelle see themselves as ambassadors and role models for up and coming female athletes, and anyone who has experienced adversity. “Being someone that kids, teens, and young adults look up to is very humbling and I do my best to add value to every person I get to meet,” says Katherine Plouffe.
Team Canada has bonded and formed into a strong support group for each other. Both women think of their teammates as family. As one would expect, they each readily admit that the other can get annoying; but all that gets left behind when the sisters are on the court. The twins come from a large family, who are a constant sideline crew at practices and games. When the Canadian women’s basketball team qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London, it brought some attention to women’s basketball, but “we still have a long ways to go before it gets the same investment as the male division,” says Michelle. This year, Canada is a top contender to win the 10-team tournament and win a trip to the Rio 2016 Games. Canada Basketball’s senior women’s national team reached the quarter-finals of the 2012 Olympics, won silver at 2013 Americas tournament, then finished fifth in last summer’s World Championship. Canada won the Americas Championship only once, when it hosted the 1995 edition in Hamilton, Ontario. Both women hope playing at home will help the team connect with the community and nab the top prize. Playing at home has been amazing, says Michelle. “Having the support of people I actually know and seeing so many familiar faces offers just that added support and motivation.”
The Plouffe sisters hope Canadians will cheer them on in August when Edmonton hosts the 2015 FIBA Americas Women’s Championship at the Saville Community Sports Centre. The preliminary runs Aug. 9 to 13, featuring four games daily, with tip-off at 1 p.m., 3:15, 6:30 and 8:45. Each of the four preliminary matches will take place at 6:30, beginning with Puerto Rico on Aug. 9. The semifinals are slated for Aug. 15, followed by the gold and bronze medal contests on Aug. 16. The top team qualifies for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The girls say they are eager to start. “It was a super cool experience just to play some exhibition games in Edmonton last summer, so I cannot wait for the qualifiers,” says Katherine Plouffe. “Not only in Canada – a huge deal – but in my hometown!”
*With files from the Edmonton Sun.
if you decide to go with different pictures from the ones I wrote captions for, let me know and I will write captions for them. the names of the files make it pretty clear who is who and what is what. #15 is always Michelle Plouffe, Katherine Plouffe is #11 or #22