US women’s bas­ket­ball dy­nasty rolls into Rio

The Myanmar Times - - Olympics -

THERE has never been an Olympic dy­nasty quite like the US women’s bas­ket­ball team, which seeks a sixth con­sec­u­tive gold medal in Rio to com­plete two decades of global dom­i­na­tion.

The Amer­i­can women are on a 41game win streak, hav­ing made five un­beaten runs in a row to gold since set­tling for bronze at the 1992 Barcelona Games, where they dropped a semi­fi­nal to the former Soviet Union team.

Add in 1984 and 1988 gold medals and the US mark is 55-1 with seven of the past eight Olympic ti­tles.

“It’s just a spe­cial time in the his­tory of USA Bas­ket­ball, be­cause of the level of tal­ent that we have, with the op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue to make his­tory with our legacy of win­ning gold medals,” US for­ward Maya Moore said. “It’s a lot of pres­sure, but it’s an ex­cit­ing chal­lenge.”

And that’s not even count­ing the US women hav­ing won six of the past eight World Cham­pi­onships ti­tles, go­ing 63-2 with third-place fin­ishes in 1994 at Aus­tralia and 2006 in Brazil.

The US women al­ready own the long­est gold medal streak for any women’s Olympic team sport. Canada’s ice hockey and Russia’s syn­chro­nized swim­mers have four-gold streaks.

In­dia’s men’s field hockey team won five Games gold medals in a row and the US men’s bas­ket­ball team won the first seven Olympic tour­na­ments con­tested, but both of those streaks were put on hold by World War II.

This year’s US team of Women’s NBA stars fea­tures three-time gold medal­lists and cap­tains Tamika Catch­ings, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird, two-time Olympic win­ners Sei­mone Au­gus­tus and Sylvia Fowles, 2012 gold medal­lists Moore, Tina Charles, An­gel McCoughtry and Lind­say Whalen and debu­tantes Elena Delle Donne, Brit­tney Griner and col­le­gian Bre­anna Ste­wart.

The vet­eran lead­ers learned from those who came be­fore, in­clud­ing record four-time Olympic cham­pi­ons Lisa Les­lie and Teresa Ed­wards, whose five to­tal medals are a Games bas­ket­ball record.

“There’s a his­tory of be­ing to­gether,” said US coach Geno Auriemma. “With­out that con­ti­nu­ity, it would be very, very dif­fi­cult.”

Bird, Taurasi and re­tir­ing Catch­ings can join the four-time gold club this year.

“That’s pretty crazy,” Bird said. “When you’re younger, you’re just kind of go­ing through it. But now that I’m older I do re­alise just how for­tu­nate I am to have had th­ese op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

As with the US men start­ing the NBA “Dream Team” for 1992 af­ter a 1988 Olympic loss to the Soviet Union, the US women built their dy­nasty af­ter not tak­ing gold in 1992 at Barcelona.

“Some sig­nif­i­cant changes were made and that ’96 team was the first team that had a chance to train to­gether like the rest of the world does,” Auriemma said.

“That ’96 team read­justed the bal­ance of power so that start­ing 20 years ago to to­day, there has never been a more dom­i­nant team in the Olympics at any sport moreso than the USA women’s na­tional team”. – CANA­DIAN ten­nis player Eu­ge­nie Bouchard will play at the Rio Olympics next month, af­ter weigh­ing the risks posed by the Zika virus and se­cu­rity con­cerns in Brazil.

“It was a hard de­ci­sion for me and I def­i­nitely thought about all the pros and cons,” Bouchard told the me­dia at the week­end as she pre­pared to play in the WTA hard­court tour­na­ment in Mon­treal.

“But at the end of the day, I knew in my heart I didn’t want to be sit­ting at home watch­ing the Olympics on TV. Also know­ing I might have two or three Olympics in my ca­reer, I felt that the de­ci­sion to go was the right one.”

Bouchard is cur­rently ranked 42nd in the world.

Her com­pa­triot Mi­los Raonic, Ro­ma­nia’s Si­mona Halep and Czechs To­mas Berdych and Karolina Pliskova have all de­cided not to play in Rio, with Zika among the big­gest con­cerns.

The mos­quito-borne virus has been leaked to birth de­fects and, more rarely, neu­ro­log­i­cal prob­lems.

The men’s golf com­pe­ti­tion in Rio has been even harder hit than ten­nis by the with­drawal of the world’s top play­ers.

Top-ranked Aus­tralian Ja­son Day, Amer­i­cans Jor­dan Spi­eth and Dustin John­son, and North­ern Ire­land’s Rory McIl­roy have all elected to miss golf’s re­turn to the Sum­mer Games af­ter 112 years. –

Photo: AFP

Brit­tney Griner drives past the de­fence of Kiah Stokes of the USA Bas­ket­ball Women’s Se­lect team dur­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion game in Los An­ge­les on July 25.

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