Sue Bird won Olympic gold for a third time but had a trying year, both on and off the court.

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Storm All-Star Sue Bird is finally back where she wants to be, at the top of the key with a ball in her hand on UConn’s women’s basketball court.

It has been a long three months away. Bird underwent surgery on her left hip in October and was cleared to play late December. She has had the injury since 2011 but needed surgery on her right hip first.

Bird played in pain to complete another whirlwind basketball run. The highlight was helping Team USA win its fifth consecutive gold medal in the London Olympic Games. But a trying 16-18 Storm season and the death of her mother’s longtime partner put a damper on the midsummer celebration.

So, Bird rehabilitated emotionally and physically back East. She welcomed friends’ newborns, attended Knicks games and cared for her mom.

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“I don’t feel I went above and beyond,” Bird said of handling the past year. “I just did what I needed to do for myself, (and) at times, for my mom and my family. When duty calls, you have to rise to the occasion.”

Bird took that mantra to the court in London. As the starting point guard, she averaged 4.5 assists in winning her third Olympic medal.

“Every single person at some point did something that allowed us to win a gold medal,” Bird said. “That’s special.”

Bird, 32, will play her ninth season in Russia when she joins UMMC Ekaterinburg in January. She is under contract to return to the Storm in 2013.

Jayda Evans

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