LONDON – Extending their Olympic dynasty run to a fifth gold medal in a row, the United States women’s basketball team overpowered France 86-50 in Saturday’s championship final.
Candace Parker produced game highs of 21 points and 11 rebounds to power the US Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) stars to their 41st Olympic victory in a row and their seventh crown in the past eight Olympics.
“For USA basketball to do it five times in a row, that’s really special,” Parker said. “We’re never going to take anything for granted. That’s the key.
“You never want to be the team that ends the streak. It’s great for us to be the team that keeps the tradition going.”
The Americans have not lost at the Olympics since dropping a 1992 Barcelona semi-final to the Unified Team of former Soviet players and only once during the win streak has a rival kept the US winning margin below 10 points.
“The US has had unbelievable teams. I think we’re just another one on the list,” US coach Geno Auriemma said. “We accomplished the same thing they did. I think that makes us equal with them.”
Since the start of the 1984 Olympics, US women are 55-1 in Olympic play, with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings each taking a third career gold medal in a row in London.
“We start at a young age,” Parker said. “The players give back. People come back for their third Olympics to show what it takes to win a gold medal, passing down what it takes to win.”
Parker downplayed her efforts, but she scored eight points in a 13-2 run late in the second quarter that lifted the US women ahead 37-23 and contributed four points in a 19-0 run in the third quarter that produced a 62-32 lead.
“I don’t think anybody remembers who scored how many points in the final at Beijing or even what the final score was,” Parker said. “I just know I won a gold medal.”
The previously undefeated French, led by 12 points each from Sandrine Gruda and Edwige Lawson-Wade, settled for silver but claimed their first Olympic medal in women’s basketball.
“It’s amazing. It’s a dream to be here with a medal,” French captain Celine Dumerc said. “It was a walk we started together five years ago. We’ve arrived at the best part now.”
Every US player scored in the rout, then struck a pose during a photo session after the medal ceremony, Parker holding her young daughter Lailaa in her arms during the celebration.
“Lailaa told me she wants a smaller one for her,” Parker said.
For Taurasi, the third time with gold was definitely charmed.
“This was a lot different than the other ones I think and it feels really good,” Taurasi said. “It’s good to do this together. It’s a special feeling.”
Bird was overjoyed at the moment as well.
“It’s hard to explain it,” Bird said. “This moment we’ve dreamed about since we were little kids. When you finally achieve it and you are on the podium nothing else matters.”
Well, Taurasi had something else in mind — going for six in a row at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
“Rio baby,” she said. “We’re going.”