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US women redefine dominance

LOIS ELFMAN Special to the AmNews | 8/17/2012, 11:03 a.m.

This was a historic Olympics for U.S. female athletes, who outnumbered men on the U.S. team and outperformed them in the gold medal count, especially in team sports, where U.S. women won gold in beach volleyball, soccer, water polo and basketball.

With their 86-50 victory over France, the U.S. women's Olympic basketball team earned their fifth consecutive gold medal, an accomplishment unmatched in women's sports. Since finishing third at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, U.S. women's teams have gone undefeated in 41 games.

"Anytime you're dealing with USA Basketball, you know that the team is always greater than the individual," said DeLisha Milton-Jones, a two-time Olympic gold medalist (2000 and 2008). "Everyone knows that you're not going to get the numbers, you're not going to get the minutes. No one cares about that. The only thing that really matters at the end of the day is every individual putting the team agenda at the forefront."

Whenever the team was tested, someone stepped up. Their toughest battle in London came against three-time silver medalists Australia in the semi-finals. In that game, a big bucket from Lindsay Whalen restored U.S. momentum. When the United States seemed tense in the early moments of the gold medal game, it was Candace Parker who led the charge until everyone settled down.

"Even though she may not have been the prolific scorer that we're used to seeing her be, I'm impressed with her defensive efforts--her shot blocking and her rebounding," said Milton-Jones, Parker's teammate on the Los Angeles Sparks. Parker was the team's leading rebounder throughout the Olympics, averaging 7.8 per game. In the final, she had 11 rebounds and 21 points.

In the first Olympics in 20 years without Lisa Leslie, tri-captains Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings showed they were able to lead. Milton-Jones said Taurasi's unselfish play was extraordinary. In the gold medal game, every player on the U.S. team scored.

There were also historic accomplishments on the track, where Sanya Richards-Ross won her third consecutive gold medal in the 4x400 relay as well as individual gold in the 400 meters. Allyson Felix won three gold medals, one as part of the 4x100 relay that shattered a world record that had stood for more than two decades. Claressa Shields won gold for the U.S. in the debut of women's boxing.