Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — It couldn’t have been a more perfect ending to what we know will be Tamika Catchings last Olympic Games, and what might be the last for fellow four-time Olympians Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird.
Team USA’s golden girls earned their fourth gold medal beating Spain 101-72 in Saturday’s gold medal match-up. Not to mention, these three helped lead the red, white, and blue to their sixth consecutive gold – a trend that doesn’t look like it will stop anytime soon judging by the depth and talent of this year's team.
“Not many people have an opportunity to play in the Olympics… One, let alone two, three and four,” said Catchings.
“I’m blessed for all the opportunities I’ve had and all the lives that I’ve been able to impact by using the platform of basketball.”
Bird, who fought through an injury after missing the semi-final game against France, could have very well played in her last Olympics as well. However, her post-game focus was not on the future but on the greatness that this team just accomplished.
“When you get together as a team, and you know you only have a month to do something, it’s remarkable in so many ways that we were able to put this together and do it in a fashion that leaves no question marks,” said Bird.
But none of it would have been possible without the leadership and genius that is Head Coach Geno Auriemma.
Auriemma spoke on the teams play throughout the tournament.
“From the very first game that we played to today, with very few exceptions I thought we played basketball at a really high level.”
A level that speaks volumes about the quality of player that Auriemma has brought up through the collegiate system, coming full circle back to Team USA as he coached five of his former UCONN athletes. Not to mention building chemistry among players in a month that often takes years to build.
“The way we played, we respected our opponents, and we respected the game itself. We earned a lot of respect from a lot of people around the world, and I’m really proud of that.”
That’s the American way – win and win right. The women of Team USA did just that. And they had fun along the way.
“This put us on the map as arguably one of the best teams, and we had fun doing it,” said Bird.
And she’s right. This team has a legitimate argument when it comes to discussing the best teams in the world. The stats speak for themselves: record for field goals made (324), field goal percentage (.577), 3-pointers made (58), free-throw percentage (.776), and assists (224). Don’t forget about their overall routing of opponents and breaking triple-digit scores in six of their eight games.
“I’ve never been a part of anything like this,” said Taurasi.
Whether or not this is her last Olympics games, she made her mark. They all did. And whether this was their first gold medal, like Team USA rookie Breanna Stewart, or their fourth gold medal like that of Catchings, Bird, and Taurasi – they all leave Rio will a few more fans, a lot more respect, and one big piece of gold pride around their necks.