Women’s basketball has struggled for years to be taken as seriously as the men’s sport, and although there are many reasons that shouldn’t be the case, Team USA’s track record at the Olympics may be the most compelling argument yet.
Let’s break it down. Women’s basketball was first added to the Summer Olympics in 1976. This means that the Tokyo Olympics marked the 12th appearance of the sport. Of the 12 gold medals awarded so far, nine have gone to the American women, who have been undefeated on the Olympic stage since 1996. Only two other women’s teams have won gold at the Olympics: the Soviet Union and the 1992 “Unified Team,” comprising athletes from former Soviet countries.
For those crunching the numbers at home, this means that the US women’s basketball team has won Olympic gold at a rate of 75 percent. For comparison, the men’s team has taken home gold in 16 out of 20 Olympic tournaments (a rate of 80 percent) and has been undefeated since 2008.
Historically, basketball is one of the sports that American women have been most dominant in, along with soccer, gymnastics, and softball. With a win at the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup already under their belts, a win in Tokyo seemed inevitable – and of course, the team delivered. As they always do.
Team USA’s Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi Win a Record 5th Olympic Gold in Women’s Basketball
Twenty years after Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi first donned the same jersey, the longtime teammates, rivals, and friends have made Olympic history. On the final day of competition at the Tokyo Olympics, the US women’s basketball team defeated host nation Japan 90-75 to win their seventh consecutive Olympic gold medal. The victory marked a record fifth Olympic gold for Bird and Taurasi, more than any other athlete in the history of the sport.
Both players have signaled that this Olympics could be their last, and there couldn’t be a more fitting end to one of the most compelling storylines in women’s sports. Bird and Taurasi first played together at the University of Connecticut, where they won an NCAA championship as a senior and sophomore, respectively. (Bird won a total of two NCAA titles during her time at UConn; Taurasi won three.) The two guards entered the WNBA draft two years apart and were both selected first overall. As pros, they’ve won a combined seven WNBA championships: four for Bird with the Seattle Storm, and three for Taurasi with the Phoenix Mercury.
And then, of course, there’s the Olympic accolades. To date, Bird and Taurasi are both undefeated in Olympic play, and they’ve helped lead Team USA to five of their last seven Olympic gold medals, starting in 2004. It’s a legacy the sports world won’t soon forget.