US women’s basketball dynasty rolls into Rio
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. –
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.