TOM KIMMELL / USA VOLLEYBALL
Heather Bown's volleyball resume has one item missing: an Olympic medal. The former Hawaii All-American has one last shot at changing that next month in Beijing. This will be her final try at a medal, as the 30-year-old is ready to move on with her life.
Bown for greatness
She can only hope that the third time will be a charm.
Fifth in a series by staff writer Cindy Luis profiling the Islands' athletes competing in next month's Beijing Games.
Heather Bown's storied volleyball career has one puka in it: There is no Olympic medal. The former Hawaii All-American has one last shot at changing that next month in Beijing.
This is her aloha tournament representing the U.S. Bown, who turns 30 this November, is ready to move on with her life.
"It definitely would be nice to go out with a medal," Bown said. "And I want to go and enjoy myself, playing for the U.S. for the last time. That's all I can ask for."
HEATHER BOWN / VOLLEYBALL
Full name: Heather Erin Bown
Birthdate: Nov. 29, 1978
College: Hawaii (1998-99)
Hometown: Yorba Linda, Calif.
Position: Middle blocker
Olympics: Third (2000, '04)
Competition dates: Aug. 9-23.
Career highlights: Starting middle at 2002 World Championships, finished third in blocks, team won silver medal. At the Athens Games, team finished tied for fifth; at Sydney, team finished fourth. ... Two-time All-Big West at UC Santa Barbara (1996-97). ... After transferring to UH, was a two-time All-American (1998-99), WAC Player of the Year (1999) when leading the country in blocks. ... Led Monte Schiavo Banca Marche Jesi to the championship round of the Italian Serie A tournament in 2007.
Fun fact: Bown, a former competitive swimmer in high school, learned to surf while at UH. Said it was easy to give up swimming for volleyball because she had a hard time talking when doing laps in the pool.
Tomorrow: Lindsey Berg, volleyball
And she'll be doing it with two other former Rainbow Wahine in setter Robyn Ah Mow-Santos and outside hitter Kim Willoughby. The island connection continues with setter Lindsey Berg (Punahou '98).
"It's cool, being with Robyn and Lindsey again," Bown said of her teammates from the 2004 Athens Games. "And they've been trying to get Kim on the team for a long time. She finally came out and 'Jenny' (U.S. head coach Lang Ping) knew she wanted Kim. She definitely has the athleticism to be there."
Bown, on her third Olympic team, has shown that as well, going from UH to the Sydney Games in a matter of eight months. The U.S. finished fourth in Australia, where Bown was second on the team in blocks.
She was a starter on the 2002 World Championship silver-medal team, ranking third overall in the tournament in blocks. While the U.S. has struggled somewhat since then -- fifth place at the Athens Games, ninth at the '06 Worlds -- Bown has continued to play well in being named "Best Blocker" and "Best Server" at various international competitions.
"Heather is one of the most dynamic middles in the world," U.S. assistant coach Sue Woodstra said. "She works very hard and is pretty demanding in what she expects of herself. She can just be such a force for us offensively and defensively at the net."
Wahine volleyball fans remember the 6-foot-3 Bown for her elevation and power that had Hawaii going 61-5 in her two seasons (1998-99). The two-time Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year led the nation in blocks as a senior when breaking the school's single-season block record (2.25 bpg).
"If she gets the set up high she just goes up and over people," Woodstra added. "And she can do that with power and speed. She's just very dynamic."
"Heather has helped the team a lot, has great experience," Lang said. "We're very comfortable having her out there (on the court)."
COURTESY USA VOLLEYBALL
Hawaii alumna Heather Bown, left, will play in her third Olympics next month.
Bown's success hinges on timing and connecting with her setter. She said she is comfortable with both Ah Mow-Santos and Berg, but gives the nod to Ah Mow-Santos, her teammate since joining the national team eight years ago.
"Because we've played together for so long, we don't have to talk," Bown said. "We understand each other. We have a connection that I haven't felt with anyone else.
"I told her that she was someone I looked to as a leader. I expect her to have a great Olympics."
Bown said she hasn't decided if she'll participate in the Parade of Nations at the Opening Ceremony. She did in 2000 but not 2004.
"It's great for the younger girls, that first time," she said. "Walking out of the tunnel in 2000 I really understood what the Olympics meant, what representing your country at the Olympics meant."
Bown's Olympic interest was such that she interviewed for a position with the USOC's bid committee for New York 2012. She didn't get the job; New York lost out to London.
After Beijing, Bown intends to play overseas for at least one more year. Her Monte Schiavo Banca Marche Jesi team made it to the Italian Serie A championship round the past two years and "I'm looking forward to going back to Italy," she said. "I feel at home there, learned the language and the culture. It's grown on me," Bown said. "But first, there's China. I'd like to say our chances for a medal are fantastic, but it's going to take a lot of work. If we can be consistent, especially with our passing, and not beat ourselves then we can."