ELLESMERE Port will be represented at the London 2012 Olympic Games after Jo Leedham’s place in the Team GB women’s basketball squad was confirmed.
The 24-year-old, whose career started out with the Ellesmere Port Panthers 10 years ago, says the chance to compete on the greatest sporting stage of all is something she will ‘cherish forever’.
Leedham said: “Being selected in the final 12 as an individual is a very proud moment for me and is something I will cherish forever.
“I’m really excited to be in the Olympic Village, I can’t quite imagine how great it is going to be at the moment.
“For us as a team it is unbelievable. We have come so far in recent years and achieved what was needed to qualify for London 2012.
“We are so excited to be at the Olympics, we have worked so hard and all the girls definitely deserve their place. We can’t wait to get going.”
Leedham is the leading light of the Great Britain team and her sensational form going into their first ever Olympics has given them an outside hope of winning a medal in London.
The former Ellesmere Port Catholic High School pupil marked her 50th appearance for the team with a record-breaking performance in their stunning 81-57 triumph over the Czech Republic in Prague last Wednesday.
The Czechs are ranked the fourth best team in the world but they simply had no answer to Leedham.
The 5ft 11in guard, who plays her club basketball for the Bulleen Boomers in Australia, netted 19 points to lead all scorers for the sixth game in a row as well as making an incredible 12 steals.
Twelve steals in one match is a British record at any level and surpasses the current best in both the NBA (11) and Women’s NBA (10).
But modest Leedham, who was born in Chester and grew up in Little Sutton, played down her own contribution.
She said: “The girls were amazing and to get a win over the fourth-ranked Czech Republic is a real achievement.
“It’s the first time I’ve felt we’ve all clicked and been on the same page and really held together for the full 40 minutes.
“The defence was unbelievable and I’m astounded at just how great it was.”
Leedham and her team-mates return to action next month in a four-team tournament in Sheffield also featuring Angola, Australia and France.
They will round off their preparations for the Games – which begin in 30 days time on July 27 – with a clash at home to reigning Olympic champions the USA in Manchester on July 18.
Leedham is highly regarded in the States after a successful four-year stint playing college basketball for Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire, after which she deferred the chance to play in the Women’s NBA with the Connecticut Sun.