By MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun
SYDNEY -- It was 1971 and John Nash saw her in a hotel bar.
"She was wearing hot pants," he said, the memory of it as pleasing now as the sight was then.
"Jean was beautiful, still is. Inside and out, a beautiful person."
John Nash introduced himself and just more than a year later, they were married, the 21-year-old from Wales and the 25-year-old working bloke from Tottenham, England, a printer by trade and semi-pro soccer player by passion.
If you want the building blocks of Steve Nash's ascension to Canadian Olympic basketball hero, you must begin at the beginning, in a bar in England where his parents met.
Now follow it through. The economy in Britain is shaky, and John has tasted life in South Africa during a previous soccer tour.
"We were babies," Jean said. "We had no idea what we were doing and we knew nothing about apartheid."
Steve Nash was born in Johannesburg, the epicentre of apartheid South Africa. Jean knew the move was a mistake, knew it on the first day.
"You could tell all the black people hated us, you could see it in their eyes," she said. "But we didn't have the money to leave. We knew we had to get out. I didn't want our son to grow up in a place where one group of people was second-class citizens."
There was an urgency because in South Africa, the seeds of the system were sowed early.
"It's such an unnatural thing for children to judge other children on their skin," John said. "You had to get them early to perpetuate the system."
They got out.
John landed a job in Regina, moved on to Vancouver and eventually settled in Victoria. The Nash boys -- Steve and younger brother Martin -- began to star in the local games of choice, soccer and hockey.
Martin would go on to become one Canada's finest soccer players, a catalyst in the team's stunning Gold Cup victory earlier this year.
"Growing up in Victoria, my hero was Wayne Gretzky," Steve said. "I didn't really play basketball until I was 13."
Steve was drawn to basketball because it was his friend's favourite sport. By then, he had developed the instincts that would allow him to shine from the point-guard spot. The time needed to make a decision was even shorter in hockey. The vision needed to see a whole field had been sharpened by soccer.
But it was the combination of his parents' influences -- John, good natured but a taskmaster, Jean, unfailingly supportive -- that produced premier athletes and achievers in Steve, Martin and their 20-year-old sister Joann.
And it all started with a walk across a floor and the journeyman words: "Hi, my name is John."