US women's hoop dynasty goes for more gold

For nearly three decades, US women's basketball players have dominated global rivals in astonishing fashion, with the dynasty's newest generation seeking gold on Saturday against France in the Olympic final.

The Americans, a collection of stars from the Women's NBA, take a 40-game Olympic win streak into the championship game as they seek a fifth consecutive title and seventh crown in eight Olympics against an unbeaten French side.

"I think we're all just trying to not be part of the team that didn't win the gold," said US forward Candace Parker. "So we're all just trying real hard and really playing."

The US women have not lost at the Olympics since dropping a 1992 Barcelona semi-final to the unified team of former Soviet players. In 40 wins since, the Americans have won by less than 10 points only once.

"It's not something you think about daily," US guard Sue Bird said of the win streak.

US women settled for silver in 1976 at the first Olympic women's basketball event, losing to the Soviet Union in the final. But since a 1980 boycott of the Moscow Games, US women are 54-1 in Olympic play.

Even the US men's NBA Dream Team has only won four of five gold medals starting with its 1992 debut.

And the US women's world championships figures are almost as striking.

Starting with the 1986 worlds, the US women are 57-2 with fifth titles in seven tries, settling for bronze in 2006 with a semi-final loss to Russia and 1994 when they lost to Brazil.

Together with the Olympic numbers, that's about one loss a decade for a program that could see Bird, playmaker Diana Taurasi and veteran Tamika Catchings claim their third career Olympic golds on Saturday.

"I have a lot of admiration for the younger group that's coming in, just being able to pass that torch on and teach them the things that we learned, to show them what USA Basketball's about," Catchings said.

The French have not given up on golden dreams, but admit it's hard to enter the game expecting to topple the throne.

"That's a bonus. Who cares?" said France's Isabelle Yacoubou. "They are the best team. We have nothing to lose. We are in the Olympics. We can dream here. I want to keep dreaming. We want to have fun. That's the most important thing."

"We're very proud to face the USA," French captain Celine Dumerc said. "Our chances are not huge, but we are honoured to play them."

Bird says there is no chance the Americans will take France lightly.

"France is that team that is on fire. It's the team that's got that buzz around them," Bird said. "They seem to be playing with a lot of confidence."

The Americans expect a body-bumping contest and don't look the referees to be rescuing them from physical play.

"It's the gold medal game so it's going to be physical," US forward Asjha Jones said. "We aren't going to get any calls from the referees. You have to know that going in and when you get hit you've got to keep playing."

Medal Count

Rank Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 United States 46 29 29 104
2 China 38 27 23 88
3 Great Britain 29 17 19 65
4 Russia 24 26 32 82
5 South Korea 13 8 7 28
6 Germany 11 19 14 44
7 France 11 11 12 34
86 Philippines 0 0 0 0

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