The USA Women's National Basketball team have been perennial favourites to win the gold, winning it a record six straight times since 1996. This time around, however, the level of competition has significantly increased making the road to gold harder for the Americans.
The rise of the Women's National Basketball League has led to the rise of international superstars such as Emma Meesseman (Belgium), Astou Ndour (Spain), Chiney Ogwumike (Nigeria) and Erica Ogwumike (Nigeria), who can hold their own against the best and cause major upsets.
Despite this, Team USA has the right mix of youth, athleticism and veteran experience to combat most obstacles placed in their way. Led by WNBA legends Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird, the team has the right leadership with coach Dawn Staley to guide them through testing waters at Tokyo Olympics.
Younger stars such as Breanna Stewart and A'Ja Wilson provide the ex-factor for the team with their amazing athletic capability and ability to score at will. This campaign will also be extra special for the team as it would be the last time we get to see future Hall-of-Famers Taurasi and Bird grace the hardwood at the international stage.
Ariel Atkins (Guard, Washington Mystics), Sue Bird (Guard, Seattle Storm), Tina Charles (Center, Washington Mystics), Napheesa Collier (Guard/forward, Minnesota Lynx), Skylar Diggins-Smith (Guard, Phoenix Mercury), Sylvia Fowles (Center, Minnesota Lynx), Chelsea Gray (Guard, Las Vegas Aces), Brittney Griner (Center, Phoenix Mercury), Jewell Loyd (Guard, Seattle Storm), Breanna Stewart (Forward/centre, Seattle Storm), Diana Taurasi (Guard, Phoenix Mercury), A'ja Wilson (Forward, Las Vegas Aces)
Coaches: Dawn Staley (head coach), Dan Hughes (assistant), Cheryl Reeve (assistant), Jennifer Rizzotti (assistant)
July 27: the USA vs Nigeria
July 30: the USA vs. Japan
August 2: the USA vs France
Quarterfinals- Aug. 3, Aug. 4
Semifinals- Aug. 6
Bronze medal game- Aug. 7
Gold medal game- Aug. 7
Players To Watch Out For
The White Mamba has achieved everything there is to achieve at both levels of the sport, but being ultra-competitive and setting high standards for yourself irrespective of what obstacles you face, is what puts her in a different echelon to her peers. Despite being one of the oldest members of the squad, going to her fifth Olympics, Taurasi plays with the same passion and vigour she showed during her rookie season.
Team USA Coach Dawn Staley, who played with Taurasi during her first Olympics described her perfectly when she said, "Watching her first Olympics and watching her now, she's in constant movement. She doesn't stand still even during a break in play. Here's the thing. She can go 0-for-8 to start a game, all good shots, and end up hitting the shots that give us the lead time and time again. Her timing is impeccable. She beats you up physically and mentally. That's what has created her edge. You blow by her, she gives you a little nudge. All of her fouls are useful, preventing you from scoring and letting you know don't do that. Physically she's lost some because she's 39, but mentally more than makes up for it. She's a killer.", reports USA Today.
This would be Taurasi's last opportunity to stand on the podium for her country, and she plans to make the most of it by leading her team.
The other legend in the team, Sue Bird is yet another five-time Olympic gold medal winner and one of the most decorated stars in the history of the sport. Her game serves to be an inspiration for the next generation irrespective of their gender. Her exploits in the league and at the International stage have left us in awe and craving more.
The ability to pick her spots with her flurry of moves helps put her on a level above her peers, despite going into the Olympics at 40. Her leadership and uncanny knack for encouraging her teammates to be the best versions of themselves is what truly makes her special.
Bird along with her superstar partner Megan Rapinoe, has been at the forefront of bringing about change, equality and campaigning for social justice causes. Just like her former U-Conn teammate Taurasi, Bird is destined to go out on a high.
Prediction- the USA is expected to come back home with the gold despite tough competition from Australia, Spain and Belgium.