Kelsey Plum: American Ace defies Achilles’ injury to achieve gold at Tokyo 2020

Plum, alongside teammates Stefanie Dolson, Jackie Young and Allisha Gray, brought home the first ever women’s 3x3 Basketball gold, defying a potentially career-ending injury.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Winning an Olympic gold medal is no small achievement.

But to hold it in your hand on the anniversary of your first steps post-surgery of a potentially career ending injury makes victory all the greater.

On 28 July, Kelsey Plum propelled the U.S. women’s 3x3 basketball to the discipline’s first ever gold medal after Team USA defeated the ROC 18-15 in the final at Tokyo 2020, in 2021.

It was an impressive competition from start to finish for the U.S. who won all but one game en route to their gold medal and, instrumental all the way, was Plum.

The 26-year-old averaged 6.3 points per contest across all seven games: a quietly remarkable achievement given that in the 3x3 format, the games end after the first to 21 points or, after 10 minutes of play.

Another way to illustrate how important the WNBA Las Vegas Ace was on the way to the Americans’ first title is knowing that she tied with China’s WANG Lili for Olympics’ leading scorer, but Plum reached that number with one fewer game.

Injury nearly denied Tokyo 2020 for Kelsey Plum

It was very nearly never meant to be for the guard.

The No.1 pick in 2017 WNBA draft tore her Achilles’ tendon playing 3x3 basketball just one month before the Tokyo Olympics Games were scheduled to begin 2020.

The all too familiar haunting ‘pop’ of her tendon snapping alerted Plum to her injury heartbreak.

Consequently, Plum was required to have surgery on the tendon, and begin the slow and steady return to competitive basketball.

Drawing on inspiration from Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm who tore her Achilles in 2019 and returned in 2020 to win the WNBA Championship and come away with the Finals MVP award, Plum was adamant that her injury would not stall her career progression.

And it certainly didn't.

Responding in truly emphatic fashion to her physical adversity, Plum topped off her recovery with the greatest prize of them all: an Olympic gold medal.


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