Natalie Williams had dreamed about winning an Olympic gold medal all of her life. But she'll treasure forever the day she went to the Olympic training camp for reasons other than the gold she eventually claimed with the United States women's basketball team in Australia.
Two reasons, actually — Turasi and Sydney Williams.
The nine-month-olds the WNBA all-star legally adopted Tuesday were born that same day to a woman in her early 20s who already had a 3-year-old and limited means. The woman waited two and a half months before giving the babies up for eventual adoption.
"Had she given them up right away, I couldn't have done it," said the Starzz forward and new mom. "It was kind of like they were waiting for me."
The tiny Williams' watched their mother in her 2001 Utah debut Tuesday in Ogden, as Utah earned its first win this season. They'll be in the stands again Thursday as Utah takes on the Portland Fire at 7 p.m. in the Delta Center.
The twins had better like basketball. They'll grow up watching their mother work, hopefully as effectively as she did Tuesday, leading Utah to victory with 21 points and seven rebounds.
Williams, who turned 30 in November, decided before the 2000 WNBA season she wanted to be a mother. Adoption is not something she hastily decided to do. Like participating in the Olympics, motherhood was a life-long dream for her.
"I'd always wanted to adopt," she said. "But I thought I wanted to have a child first, go through that. But then I thought adoption now is perfect for me because I'm playing (professional basketball), and then I can have (more) kids when I'm done."
So she applied through an agency called Families for Children, which had her go through a home study, fingerprinting and an FBI background check. Not exactly morning sickness but intense nonetheless.
Williams completed the process and told them she'd be willing to take a child anytime after the Olympics. Then she finished her WNBA season and won a gold medal. When she got home in November, the agency sent her a picture of the twins. Born premature, they looked small and frail. But like any mother, she saw their beauty and their need for each other. She had not planned on twins, but after having them in her home for seven and a half months before the actual adoption, she wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's weird," she said. "I never would have thought I could adopt twins. But they play with each other; they're tight. People who have one child, it's cake. . . . For me, it was just perfect. I would have loved having a sister or brother. I can already see how important they are to each other."
As they grow, they are developing into strong, athletic toddlers-to-be, she said.
"They're kind of built like me, which is scary," said Williams with a smile. "They'll probably be walking before the season ends."
Williams plans to tell the children they are adopted at an early age and still talks with the birth mother. She says she'll send the woman pictures of the children several times a year.
"They were part of her, and it's the least I can do," she said. "I know I'm their mom. Being a mom isn't necessarily having the children, it's raising them."
An only child raised by a single mother, Williams doesn't mind being mom and isn't worried about any stigma raising them in a state where the traditional two-parent family is revered. She has hired a part-time nanny, and her mom is staying with her most of the summer. She also has a huge extended family to call on if needed — something her mother relied on while raising Williams in Taylorsville.
"I was raised here," she said. "I'm always going to do what I want . . . There are thousands of single parents here in Utah."
And the bottom line is simple for the new mom.
"I love children," she said. "I know I can give them an excellent life . . . It's a lot more fun than basketball, more rewarding. I knew (that) after the first week. They're so much more special than my gold medal."
STARZZ NOTES: The Starzz planned a noon press conference Thursday to show how fans can now print their own tickets off the Internet using Ticketmaster.com. They hope it will add convenience and accessibility to the 16 home games this season . . . Coach Fred Williams said he will not make any cuts until the Friday deadline. Utah had relied little on its starters until Tuesday, but he said he'll be looking to try to find some regularity in the rotations Thursday night against Portland.