Thursday 27 July 2017

Basketball couple trek 4,000 miles

An OAP couple has travelled 4,000 miles to see the women's world basketball championships
An OAP couple has travelled 4,000 miles to see the women's world basketball championships

Betty and Jonathan Hutchinson have travelled 4,000 miles by plane and train to Eastern Europe for the women's world basketball championships, eager to watch Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and anyone else with ties to the University of Connecticut.

The Hutchinsons certainly are dedicated to Huskies hoops. And to each other, too - she's 90, he's 88, and they're a long, long way from their New Hampshire home.

"Our son Jack really encouraged us to do this," Mr Jonathan said. "We thought it would be a really great last hoorah."

Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, who's guiding the US team, was astounded when he learned about the couple. He knows the UConn fan base is passionate, but still found it incredible they made the trip.

"It's unbelievable. I was shocked when I heard they were here," he said. "I think it makes what we're doing at Connecticut seem that much more rewarding and important because you have people take it that seriously that they'd come halfway around the world."

The 56-year-old Auriemma plans to meet with the Hutchinsons - married for 60 years - before the team's game against Canada.

The pair left their home in Concord and flew to Prague before taking a three and half hour ride to Ostrava to watch the first two rounds. The two have become celebrities. They've been given a tour of the town by the president of the local rotary club and were given VIP seats at the arena.

"I don't know what they are making such a fuss about," said Mr Jonathan, who graduated from UConn in 1943 and played soccer at the school. "My wife and I would have been happy just sitting anywhere. But I learned a long time ago if someone offers you assistance to take it."

Auriemma has inspired the Hutchinsons, who plan to donate a dollar for every point the US scores during the tournament to the All Baskets Count charity. It's the same charity that the Huskies coach pledged $50 (£31.61) to for every 3-pointer his team makes during the championship.

The money will go to the construction of a House for All Generations, where young men and women between 18 and 20 years of age will live together and take care of older people who need assistance.

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