U.S. women’s teams entered the Olympic Games in Tokyo with high expectations, none more than basketball, which is pursuing its seventh consecutive gold medal. Filled with some of the top names in the WNBA, on paper the team appears unbeatable, but two losses prior to the Games left people wondering.
“For me being a first-timer, I’m just enjoying the whole experience,” said Jewell Loyd. “Opening Ceremony was really unique. It was nice to get outside of the hotel and be with other athletes. I think we’re ready to play games. We’re focused and I think it’s time to go.”
The Opening Ceremony provided a special honor for fifth-time Olympian Sue Bird as she was chosen to be the flag bearer for Team USA along with baseball player Eddy Alvarez. Loyd praised the team’s veterans, in addition to Bird, Diana Taurasi is in her fifth Olympics. Sylvia Fowles is in her fourth Olympics, looking to equal Lisa Leslie’s record. It’s the third Olympics for Queens native Tina Charles.
“The biggest thing for us is to continue to communicate,” said Loyd. “It’s different when you’re coming from all different WNBA teams. People have different terminology and things like that. Getting on the same page with each other is the biggest thing…and really getting to know one another.”
The team opened with a win over Nigeria, which was highly competitive despite FIBA and Court of Arbitration for Sport keeping WNBA standouts Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike and Elizabeth Williams, all of whom hold dual U.S. and Nigerian citizenship, from joining the team. Nneka Ogwumike and Williams were denied because they had a long involvement with USA Basketball.
Play is almost done in the inaugural outing for 3×3 basketball, in which four other WNBA stars are looking to start their own tradition. After amassing a 6–0 record in preliminary play, the U.S. team secured the number one seed in the medal round. The team is coached by Kara Lawson, head coach at Duke University and 2008 Olympic gold medalist. The most unusual twist in 3×3 is that coaches cannot coach during the game.
“We are just taking it one game at a time,” said Jackie Young, the number one pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft and final addition to this team. “I am not looking too far ahead. It is just playing our game and not letting anything rattle us.”