The 12 U.S. women who will pursue Olympic basketball history at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games were unveiled with the announcement of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team Wednesday morning on NBC’s “TODAY” show, celebrating 100 days until the start of the Games in Brazil.
The United States will pursue a record sixth consecutive gold medal and seek to extend a string that began at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. Three members of the squad – forward Tamika Catchings and guards Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi – also will be attempting to add their names to the record book, hoping to match Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie with their fourth team-sport gold medals.
The United States has won seven of the last eight Olympic gold medals in women’s basketball, dating back to the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games. The only other country to win Olympic women’s gold is the former Soviet Union, which took the first two (1976, 1980), then won at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games under the banner of the Unified Team after the breakup of the Soviet Union the year before.
With an average age of just over 29 years, the American side is one deep in experience. Only three players will be making their first Olympic appearance: Elena Delle Donne, Brittney Griner and Breanna Stewart. Five will play in either their third or fourth Olympic tournament: the team’s three captains, Catchings, Bird and Taurasi at four, with Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles selected to play in the Olympics for the third time. Tina Charles, Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen, all members of the London 2012 Olympic champions, round out the roster.
Seventy-five percent of the team played at the London 2012 Olympic Games, where the United States dominated every team statistical category, leading in points (90.6), rebounds (50.5), assists (23.1), steals (10.5) and blocks (5.1) per game.
Four players may be returning to Brazil with the thought of completing some unfinished business. Ten years ago, Augustus, Bird, Catchings and Taurasi played in the 2006 FIBA Women’s World Championship in Sao Paulo and came home with a bronze medal after stumbling against Russia in the semifinal round. McCoughtry won a gold in Rio as a member of the 2007 Pan American Games team.
If the players compiled their championship rings, they would have a total of 17 from WNBA championships and 15 from NCAA championships. Ironically, the player with the most NCAA titles, Stewart, is one of the ones with the least senior national team experience, but she still has one world championship gold medal, a Pan American Games silver and five age-group world titles.