Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi will look to become the top five Olympic gold medalists in basketball as they lead the US women’s team at the Tokyo Games.
The duo were selected for their fifth Olympics on Monday, joining Teresa Edwards as the only female basketball player in U.S. history to play five. Edwards won four gold medals and one bronze in his illustrious Olympic career.
“It’s been a great trip when you think about playing for so long,” said Taurasi. “We’re trying to pass it on to the next generation. Focused on what we need to do to get home with the gold. Huge competition like no other because of COVID, the delay of the Olympics. We’re really focused. on the golden victory. “
Five international basketball players have participated in five Olympic Games: Spaniard Juan Carlos Navarro, Brazilians Adriana Moises Pinto and Oscar Schmidt, Australian Andrew Gaze and Puerto Rico Teofilo Cruz.
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Bird, 40, and Taurasi, 39, will lead a group of veterans in Japan, including Sylvia Fowles, 6ft 6in, who will compete in her fourth Olympics. Tina Charles will be on her third while 6-8 Brittney Griner and Breanna Stewart are back for the second time.
There will also be six newcomers to the Olympic scene led by reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson. Las Vegas star Aces helped the United States win the 2018 world championship in Spain. Others making their Olympic debuts are Skylar Diggins-Smith, Chelsea Gray, Ariel Atkins, Jewell Loyd and Napheesa Collier.
“Happy for the roster we have. There is a great mix of very experienced players and first-time Olympians,” said USA coach Dawn Staley. “You need a good mix, especially if you want to deal with winning a gold medal today and what the future looks like.”
Two former WNBA MVPs who did not make the roster were Elena Delle Donne and Nneka Ogwumike. Delle Donne hasn’t played all season as she is recovering from back surgery. Ogwumike was ruled out with a sprained left knee suffered earlier this month. She was expected to return to the WNBA Olympic break next month.
Both players were part of the world championship team that won gold in 2018 and Ogwmuike has attended nearly every U.S. training camp in recent years. She is the only former WNBA MVP not to be on the Olympic roster.
“It breaks my heart that Nneka is not on this team,” Staley said. “Having to make a decision today, if we had to make a decision in a month, I’m sure she would be healthy. It was one of the things she wanted to do.… She was great. voices in our training camp and practices. Nneka will definitely be missed. “
The Americans have won the last six consecutive gold medals, having lost no games at the Olympics since 1992. They are the big favorites to win again. The Americans are in a group with France, Japan and Nigeria, against which the United States opens on July 27. The Americans will face Japan on July 30 and France on August 2.
The US team will meet in Las Vegas in July to train for a week and play an All-Star Game against selected WNBA players. The Americans will also play matches against Australia and Nigeria.