With a 90-75 victory over Japan in the Tokyo final in 2020 at the Saitama Super Arena on Saturday night, the American women’s soccer team of Team USA tied the boys team of 1936-68 for the most consecutive Olympic gold medals in a team sport with seven.
Brittney Griner took the lead with an incredible 30 points when the USA won its ninth gold medal in overall women’s basketball.
Griner was 14-of-18 from the field (77.8 percent) and Japan just didn’t have an answer for her. She added three blocks to a performance that will help define her legacy. Griner is now a two-time Olympic gold medalist, WNBA champion, two-time defensive player of the year, seven-time All-Star and former No. 1 overall pick. She spent part of the 2020 WNBA season focusing on mental health, and it’s a good feeling to see her return to the top of the sport in this way.
Griner was really the third of the USA’s big three in group games, but was the second best player in the quarterfinals against Australia and has since taken the lead in the last two rounds.
Breanna Stewart has proven it’s not just about scoring her points, as she has 14 rebounds, five assists, four wickets and three shots for refusing to go with her 14 points in the gold medal. Meanwhile, A’ja Wilson has 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists and an impressive five blocks. Both kept working to keep the lead big in the second half and never gave up. The leading trio of Griner, Stewart and Wilson really paved the way for gold.
With the U.S. 40-32 at 3:31 left in the second quarter, Wilson blocked a Japanese three-point attempt and grabbed the ball for a breakaway. She misses the lineup, however, which gave Japan a 5-on-4 chance the other side. Luckily for Team USA, Monica Okoye missed a quick try that would have cut it to five in that possession, and momentum never changed. Chelsea Gray calmed things down with a midfield that made it 42-32 anyway and the US opened its biggest half-time lead at 46-32 before Japan cut it to 11 at halftime.
The order changed the course of the game and Team USA took a 24-point lead after a 21-6 run with seven points from Wilson (four second chances), five points each from Stewart and Sue Bird and four points from Laughs. The final two scores of the run came on a long pass from Stewart to Bird and then a Stewart try that made the 73-49 USA.
The United States took the biggest lead of the night (25) on a Griner lay with 5:51 left in the fourth. Japan then fought back to reduce the final margin to 15.
Bird (seven points, three assists) won her fifth Olympic gold medal, as did Diana Taurasi, who scored seven points, six rebounds and eight assists. No other player, in men’s or women’s basketball, has achieved this feat.
The USA led 10-2 and 18-5 before the consecutive Japan tries. Japan would make a third try that cut it to 20-14, but Jewell Loyd’s one basket of the game, a try with five seconds to go in the first, was the key to giving the USA some breathing space.
The US tries just 13 tries compared to Japan’s 31. The US has four and Japan eight. The US blocked 12 shots while Japan did not block any shots.
Sylvia Fowles won her fourth gold medal, while Tina Charles won her third and Stewart a second. Wilson, Gray, Loyd, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Napheesa Collier and Ariel Atkins are all first gold medals. The team’s head coach, Dawn Staley, is a gold medalist for the first time as head coach and won Olympic gold as a player in 1996, 2000 and 2004.