Did you know…
Montreal (Quebec, Canada), one of the most beautiful and modern sites in the Western Hemisphere, hosted the First Women’s Basketball Olympic Tournament in 1976. Six countries competed for the gold medal, including Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Japan. The international meet was won by the women’s national team of the Soviet Union (present-day Russia). A barely a year earlier, the Soviet team came in first in the VII Global championship in Cali, Colombia (South America) by beating Japan in the gold-medal match. Meanwhile, on July 23, 1976, America claimed second place in the multi-sport event after losing to the USSR (spearheaded by its international star Uljana Semjonova) 112-77, having earned the right to compete in the XXIII Olympiad by winning the First FIBA Women’s Basketball Olympic Games Qualification Tournament at Hamilton (Ontario, Canada). The silver medalists were Lusia Harris, Cindy Brogdon, Susan Rojcewicz, Ann Meyers, Julienne Simpson, Patricia Head, Mary Anne O’Connor, Patricia Roberts, Gail Marquis, Nancy Lieberman, Charlotte Lewis, and Nancy Dunkle. The US team began its pre-Olympic preparation after winning the VI Pan American Cup in Mexico City in October 1975.
Under the leadership of Semjonova, the USSR, host nation, won the Olympic Tournament at Moscow in 1980, followed by Bulgaria (silver medal), Yugoslavia (bronze), Hungary (4th), Cuba (5th) and Italy (6th). It was the second Olympian win for the USSR (also known as the Soviet Union during Cold War). On the other hand, Latvia’s giant Uljana Semjonova was the most outstanding basketball player at Moscow ’80. For the next years, the 7-foot-1, 284-pound Semjonova was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame at Springfield (Maryland), the first female player from the former USSR to accomplish that feat.
Los Angeles 1984
For the first ever, the US women’s basketball squad captured the Olympian Championship in Southern California. The People’s Republic of China collected the silver medal. The bronze medal went to the Republic of Korea; East Europe’s teams did not take part at the 1984 Olympiad because of Moscow’s boycott. On its way to the Los Angeles Games, the US team – with notable sportswomen such as Janice Lawrence, Cheryl Miller, and Lynette Woodard – won the IX Pan American Sports Games on Venezuelan soil in August 1983. In Venezuela, America defeated Cuba 100-82 (43-38) to win the Pan American gold medal. A few weeks ago, they came close to winning the FIBA World Cup on Brazilian soil.
On October 29, 1988, in South Korea’s capital city of Seoul, the U.S. women’s team took gold in the Olympian event, after finishing first during the 1984 Games in Los Angeles (California). In the finals, they defeated Yugoslavia 77-70 (42-36). Nonetheless, the “most exciting game” was when America, led by its All-Star player Teresa Edwards, beat the Soviet Union 102-88 (50-39) on October 27 (semis). The States won the Olympian trophy with the following world-class players: Suzanne McConnell, Cynthia Cooper, Jennifer Gillom, Katrina McClaim, Andrea Lloyd, Victoria Bullett, Bridgette Gordon, Teresa Weatherspoon, Anne Donovan, Cynthia Brown, Mary Ethridge, and Miss Edwards. Two years ago, in 1986, they had won the global tournament in the Russian capital of Moscow. In the latter half of the 20th century, America’s Edwards made history when she captured four golds in the Summer Games from the 1980s to the early 2000s: Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000. Uljana Semjonova (Latvia), Hortencia Fatima Marcari (Brazil) and Edwards are considered the most famous female players in Olympian history.
Atlanta Games 1996
A miracle occurred at Atlanta 1996! Despite suffering a bloody civil war, where over four million people were slaughtered (and thousands of girls were raped), incredibly the African republic of Zaire (today the Democratic Republic of the Congo /D.R.C) qualified as one of the 12 best teams of the world in the Games of the 26th Olympiad in the States, giving an example to several countries in the Third World, from Peru and the Philippines to India and Brunei Darussalam. Without a doubt, it was the “most memorable moment in Zaire’s sporting history.” After receiving support from Dikembe Mutumbo, a Congolese-born American star player, the African team went to Atlanta. From an Olympian perspective, Zaire’s team should be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The 2004 Olympic Tournament was won by the United States of America followed by Australia (silver medal), Russia (bronze), Brazil (4th), Czech Republic (5th), Spain (6th), Greece (7th), New Zealand (8th), the People’s Republic of China (9th ), Japan ( 10th place), Nigeria (11th) and South Korea (12th). In the Greek capital of Athens, the States captured its third gold medal for the third time in a row – the most wins of the basketball Olympic tournament by a women’s squad. Curiously, Nigeria’s basketball player Mfon Udoka was the championship’s second best scorer with 21.7 points.