Unstoppable is the perfect word to describe the United States Women’s Basketball Team’s gold medal-winning performance at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. The Americans were unchallenged in the tournament, winning by an average of 40 points-per-game and eclipsing the 100-point mark in five of those victories.
Some observers believe the gold standard was set by the 1996 team that began this current run of six gold medals and 49 consecutive Olympic wins, but no one should forget the squad who competed in the first-ever Olympic women’s basketball tournament at the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal.
Forty years ago, a group of women came together and built the foundation for what U.S. women’s basketball has become today. The goal of the selection committee was to choose a diverse squad that tapped into a style of play which attracted a new, loyal fan base. Plus, they wanted to give every young female American basketball player an opportunity to compete in the Olympics.
This positive environment showcased the differences and similarities of the players. In their training, it wasn’t simply to be in shape physically, but to become mentally tough as one unit that could defeat a more experienced opponent each night of the tournament. Before the start of the Olympics, the locker room chatter was about the honor of being a member of a team that could make history. Each player relished the underdog’s role against the world.
Having the first US Women’s Olympic Basketball Team capture the silver medal in Montreal was a groundbreaking moment in sports history. It changed the perception of women’s basketball in the United States and throughout the world. Their accomplishment offered hope to young female athletes that sports could be a thriving entity in their future.
It was a unique opportunity for a group of women that shared a vision and came together to do whatever it took to win a medal. This victory began a real change in how the rosters of other Olympic women’s sports teams were chosen, as a majority of them didn’t have the commitment like women’s basketball.
The history of US women’s basketball has brought a keen sense of accomplishment, as gold mixes very well with red, white and blue. To commemorate the team’s 40th anniversary, U.S.A. Basketball honored this groundbreaking team of women during their exhibition games prior to the Rio Olympics this past summer.