Q&A: WNBA Champ Chelsea Gray on Tokyo Gold, Body Maintenance, and Being a Role Model

Chelsea Gray is a WNBA champion and four-time All-Star who just helped the United States capture gold at the Tokyo Games.

As a junior at Duke, she suffered a knee injury that caused her to miss her entire senior year. Despite the setback, the Connecticut Sun drafted Gray No. 11 overall in 2014. She was traded to the Sparks after her rookie season and was a key member in their 2016 title run. In January, the 28-year-old signed a multiyear contract with Las Vegas and is now averaging 11.4 points, 6.3 assists, and 3.0 rebounds for the Western Conference-leading Aces.

Gray is an advocate of PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field) therapy and an informal partner with HAELO, one of the leaders in PEMF therapy.

Gray sat down with Sports Section to discuss the benefits of PEMF, winning a gold medal, being a role model, and much more.

SPORTS SECTION: Why are you so passionate about PEMF?
GRAY: It hits every aspect of my life. I’m an athlete, so for me it improves my overall recovery, reduces inflammation, helps release stress, improves my sleep, and boosts my energy. It pretty much targets every aspect of my life, so I’m always trying to use it.

What’s your typical routine?
On a typical practice day I wake up, and if I’m feeling a little sluggish beforehand, I’ll run a set on HAELO that helps me lock in. And then if it’s a hard practice, I’ll run a set focusing on recovery or immune defense. On a normal day, I’ll run a set before bed because it has a calming effect and aids my sleep.

Was your college injury the main factor in making body maintenance a priority?
Definitely. The first step was changing my diet. I got a little bit leaner and smarter about the weight that I put on and carry with my knees and legs. It was the first time I really paid attention to my diet to get the most out of my body.

Our body is how we make our money — it’s what we do. And so to be able to, for lack of a better term, treat it like a temple and make sure I know what’s going on inside is important.

How did you learn about PEMF?
My wife has a health and wellness coach, and she had a contact at HAELO, and that’s when I really started to dive in. So thankfully, HAELO came into my life, so I was able to learn and actually use this. It was at the perfect time — when I was going into the WNBA bubble (last summer), so I was able to use it on a more consistent basis.

Was it always basketball for you?
Actually, I loved basketball and soccer. I was just better at basketball. But I really loved soccer. I was a big Hope Solo fan. My parents thankfully said, “Let’s try to put a little bit more focus on basketball.” It was kind of a family sport as well. With my brother, we spent our quality time playing outside in the front yard and hooping. And so I fell in love with the game after I truly focused on it.

How was your Olympic experience?
It was amazing and a little bit surreal. We were on the plane on our way to Tokyo, and I was like, “I’m an Olympian.” Being a part of USA basketball, there’s a legacy and standard that I really appreciate, and I embrace every part of it. I was able to play with some of the greats and hold up that gold medal at the end of it.

Are you able to put in words the feeling of winning a gold medal?
There were a lot of emotions. My path has been super-different because of all the injuries that I have had. I missed out on doing some of the camps my junior and senior years in college and being a part of USA Basketball.

So to hold up a gold medal at the end of it was like, “Dang, I deserve to be here, and all my hard work and the route that has taken me to get to this point was all worth it.”

It was the top of the top of what everybody strives to do and be a part of. It makes you want to do it again and again.

Can you compare it to winning a WNBA title?
A lot of people have the opportunity to win a WNBA championship, but I was one of 12 against the best in the world. While they’re both amazing achievements, I think I would have to put that gold medal slightly above. Of course, I want another championship, but I would probably put winning gold slightly above it.

What are your expectations for the rest of the WNBA season?
As far as the team is concerned, we’re getting back together, and we’re starting to feel and see us clicking on all cylinders. And when we do that, we’re really hard to play against.

Right now, we’re in the spot we want to be in as one of the top two spots heading into the playoffs, because you get a bye into the semifinals and you’re automatically in a series.

You never know what’s going to happen in one game. I’ve been on the back end of that where you have one bad game, and you’re out. So being one of those top two teams was really our focus, and in order to get there it’s every game and every possession.

For me personally, it’s to be that leader and that consistent player out there.

As one of the more recognizable faces in women’s basketball, do you embrace being a role model?
I fully embrace that. Growing up, you look for those types of role models. Like, “OK, if she can do it, I can do it. If I can see her, I can be here.”

It’s important to me when young kids are looking at the screen or they come into contact when they come to a game that they see somebody that looks like them achieving their dreams.

As a Black woman, that’s all I want. I want kids to be able to grow up and think, “OK, she’s doing it, I can achieve the dream as well.”

And I just achieved one of my dreams as a little girl of someday holding up a medal. So it’s possible. It’s just having the hard work and dedication behind it.

Chris Kuc is a sportswriter who covered a myriad of sports during his career with the Chicago Tribune, The Athletic, and the Chicago Blackhawks before joining Sports Section. You can reach out to Chris at Chris.Kuc@thesportssection.com or on Twitter: @ChrisKuc.