Olympic games will be last for Bellarmine Prep grad Kim Butler
For Kim Butler, competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics is the realization of a dream.
The London Games also could mark the end of the 2001 Bellarmine Prep graduate’s career as a professional women’s basketball player.
Nagging injuries, a desire to return home and live near family and a recent engagement should land Butler back in Pierce County soon.
“She wanted to stick it out for the Olympics and then retire,” said Butler’s mother, Kathy Tschimperle.
Knowing that the games Butler, who will compete for Great Britain, plays in over the next few weeks will probably be her last, her family is turning them into a celebration.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the culmination of all her hard work,” Tschimperle said.
In its final tune-up before the Summer Games, Great Britain lost to the United States, 88-63, on Wednesday. Butler came off the bench and played 17 minutes.
Great Britain, which is fielding an Olympic women’s basketball team for the first time, opens the Summer Games against Australia on Saturday. Butler’s mother, step-father, father, step-mother, sister, brother-in-law and fiancée will be on hand and at each of Great Britain’s games.
“As long as she’s playing,” sister Julie Hiles said, “we’ll be in London.”
Butler, who has dual British and American citizenship, bought tickets for her family – players don’t receive free tickets – and rented them a home to stay in about 20 minutes’ travel from the Olympic Village.
“There’s a lot to look forward to,” said Hiles, a 1999 graduate of Bellarmine Prep, “the whole Olympics experience, getting a behind-the-scenes look from Kim, and watching my sister play in the Olympics.”
The sisters starred together at Bellarmine Prep. Julie was Narrows League MVP her senior season and led the Lions to back-to-back trips to the Class 4A state tournament. Kim guided the Lions back to state in 2000. She averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds a game and was a first-team all-state tournament pick. A knee injury ended Butler’s senior season prematurely – she was on her way to a fourth consecutive standout year, averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Kim and Julie played together again at Santa Clara University. When Hiles graduated, Butler transferred to Oregon State, where she was a two-year starter for the Beavers. As a senior, she scored 576 points, the school’s second-highest single-season point total at the time.
After graduation, Butler found her way to Europe, where she played for teams in Greece, Italy, Israel, Spain, Slovakia and Latvia.
“She’s gotten to see most of the world, especially Europe,” Julie said. “It’s kind of been a dream job.”
Most recently, the 29-year-old Butler played for Latvian club SK Cesis. The power forward was voted MVP after SK Cesis won its league title in April.
Having dual citizenship allowed Butler, whose father John Butler is British, to extend her professional career. Most European leagues limit the number of Americans allowed on their teams to one or two. Because Butler is also a British citizen, she counts as a European.
Being a globe-trotting professional basketball player doesn’t come without a few drawbacks, though. She’s away from her family for months at a time, lives out of suitcases and is coached in languages she barely understands.
Butler’s mother said she’s eager just to see her daughter – Butler visited for a week around Christmas and again in March – let alone watch her compete in the Olympics.
“She’s given up a lot to pursue her dream,” Tschimperle said, “and I’m so proud of her.”
email@example.com 253-597-8271 blog.thenewstribune.com/preps