Suzie McConnell-Serio was 22 years old in 1988 when she arrived in Korea to compete in the Olympics.
The longtime Upper St. Clair resident had just received her degree, and had earned a sparkling basketball reputation, from Penn State University. She’d been through five months of tryouts for a spot on the U.S. Women’s Basketball team, and was feeling a bit of disbelief that her efforts had paid off on such a large scale.
“On Aug. 18, 1988 they named the team and we left for Olympics that year,” McConnell-Serio said. “I just remember being so anxious and excited because it really was a dream of mine.”
McConnell-Serio had traveled through Europe while playing with USA Select Basketball in the years leading up to the Olympics, but she said it was nothing compared to achieving her dream of standing on the world’s stage.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “It really is. It’s a dream come true to be part of the Olympics, to live in the village and be surrounded by the lead athletes from all over the world.”
McConnell-Serio and her teammates won gold that year, and she said the feeling of standing with the whole team, on the Olympic stand is like none other.
“Being on the medal stand, the feeling is just unbelievable,” she said. “It’s the ultimate dream come true in sports. You’re so proud when you have the medal around your neck and you hear your national anthem. It’s really emotional.”
Four years later, she was back on the Olympic court, competing in the 1992 games in Barcelona.
This time, the team took home the bronze.
“I remember at the time we were devastated when we lost in the semifinal game and we ended up having to play in the bronze medal game,” McConnell-Serio said. “It’s one of the most difficult games to get motivated for because the expectation is to win gold. But when you look back now at the experience, it’s still something special. It’s still amazing.”
In the 20 years since those games, McConnell-Serio has coached in the WNBA and seen some of those athletes head to the Olympics themselves.
She currently is the women’s basketball coach at Duquesne University. She lives in Upper St. Clair with her husband, Pete – both are Brookline natives – and their four children.
All of her children have played basketball. Her daughters, 17-year-old Jordan, 16-year-old Mandi and 15-year-old Madison, all play for Upper St. Clair High School. Her son, Peter, 21, is a student at Duquesne University.
For McConnell-Serio, the Olympics will always be a valuable memory.
“It’s the ultimate dream come true in sports,” she said. “That experience is just unbelievable.”
WPXI profiled McConnell-Serio this month. To watch the WPXI video, click here.