The next step in the quest for a fifth straight Olympic gold medal for the 2012 USA Basketball Women’s National Team is its first London Games contest against Croatia on July 28. After gathering on July 14 in Washington, D.C., the U.S. women have recorded four wins in exhibition play in three different countries.
“If we did have a couple months together, we could be great at everything because the collection of players that we have is phenomenal,” said USA head coach Geno Auriemma. “But the things that I thought we’d be good at, we are very good at.”
Since earning a bronze medal in 1992 when the Unified Team (former USSR/Russia) took the gold, the U.S. women have earned four straight gold medals. A fifth straight gold would be a record for women’s traditional team sports.
In the eight Olympiads in which the U.S. has participated since 1976, when women’s basketball first became an Olympic sport, the U.S. has medaled every time – six golds, one silver (1976), one bronze (1992). The U.S. is the only team to medal in each of these eight Olympiads (the U.S. did not participate in the 1980 games).
Among the current U.S. Olympians, Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings, and Diana Taurasi each have won two golds; Seimone Augustus, Swin Cash, Sylvia Fowles, Candace Parker have one apiece. Dating back to the 2000 Games, all but one U.S. Olympian was/is a WNBA player at the time (Teresa Edwards in 2000).
Olympians who became WNBA MVPs include Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes and Australia’s Lauren Jackson (three MVPs each); Cynthia Cooper (two-time winner); and Yolanda Griffith, Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, and Tamika Catchings (once each).
Teresa Edwards is the most decorated U.S. Women’s Olympic basketball player with five medals (four golds, one bronze). Lisa Leslie is second with four (all golds).
Bird told the Associated Press, “We’re doing something that no one has ever done. You don’t hear much about it and people take it for granted that we’re going to win, assume it’s going to happen. To go for a fifth gold medal in a row, that’s unbelievable.”
According to WNBA.com, the 31-year-old point guard for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm was temporarily away from the squad during exhibition games last week due to the untimely death of her stepfather, but Bird jetted out to Istanbul to rejoin her teammates for a pair of tune-up matches against Croatia and Turkey – both victories – and is now slated to lead the team from the point guard position when the London Olympic Games tip-off this weekend.
“In a way, this is kind of my normal routine, being with a team, being around these guys,” said Bird after playing 19 minutes, scoring eight points and dishing out five assists in a 109-55 victory over Croatia. “It feels real good to get back to that. It was obviously also really good to be home with my family and my mom last week.”