The first 11 members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team were announced today by USA Basketball and features a trio of two-time Olympic gold medalists, four athletes who have each earned one Olympic gold medal and four newcomers to the Olympic stage. The well-balanced and talented core of the U.S. squad will compete for the USA's fifth-consecutive Olympic gold medal in London this summer. The athletes were selected by the USA Basketball Women's National Team Player Selection Committee, approved by the USA Basketball Board of Directors and are pending final approval by the U.S. Olympic Committee. One slot remains for the eventual 12-member U.S. squad and the final athlete will be selected at a later date.
Named to their third Olympic team were Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), all of whom won gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. Competing in her second Olympics after winning gold in Athens in 2004 is Swin Cash (Chicago Sky); while Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) and Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) captured their Olympic gold medal in Beijing in 2008. Playing on the Olympic stage for the first time will be Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) and Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx).
"The USA Basketball Women's National Team program has been able to sustain an unparalleled level of success in Olympic competition," said Jim Tooley, USA Basketball executive director/CEO. "That is due, in part, to the continuity of its players. We believe we have selected the best core group possible to continue our success on the international stage. These 11 players include a great mix of international veterans, whose leadership is invaluable to the team, and we have young players who have proven themselves and who are hungry for this opportunity.
"The selection process was not an easy task. There were a number of athletes in consideration for a spot on the Olympic team, and it was difficult to pare the team down from the 21 finalists. We believe we have assembled a solid core group that will help continue USA Basketball's string of gold medals. I extend my thanks and appreciation to our USA Basketball Women's National Team Player Selection Committee for the time and effort they put into the selection process."
"I think anytime you're choosing a team made up of the best players, not only the best players in the country, they're some of the best players in the world, it's very difficult to come to a team of 12. While 11 players have been selected to be a part of the 2012 Olympic Team, some really, really good players are still in the mix for that final spot," said Geno Auriemma, 2009-12 USA National Team and University of Connecticut head coach. "I think for the 11, the committee took into consideration what the competition is and who we're going to have to beat, and put together a really incredible group of players that is not only highly skilled and competitive, they're proven winners. You have Olympic gold medal winners, World Championship gold medal winners, NCAA champions, WNBA champions, European champions. It's just a group of unique individuals that I'm really, really looking forward to coaching.
"Anytime you coach USA Basketball, there's inherent pressure," added Auriemma when asked about the added pressure of being the four-time defending Olympic champion. "Pressure on you as a coach to make sure you do a great job with your team, make sure you're prepared and that the players are ready for whatever comes your way and we're committed to one goal as a team. So, there's that pressure. There's the pressure that the players put on themselves because they're winners. They're used to winning. There's pressure in the fact that the United States has won four gold medals in a row. That's a good kind of pressure. To me, that's the kind of pressure that makes you even better, because the bar's set really, really high. Knowing the competitive nature of the group and the coaching staff, the higher the bar, the better we like it. I'm thrilled that we won four in a row. I have a tremendous admiration for the coaches who have coached in those four gold medal games and those players who have played in them. I hope we can continue to add to that legacy."
In addition to the combined 10 Olympic gold medals, all 11 players have won a FIBA World Championship medal. Bird and Catchings, both of whom were on the 2002 USA World Championship Team that won gold, were joined on the gold medal winning 2010 USA World Championship Team by Cash, Charles, Fowles, McCoughtry, Moore and Whalen; while Augustus, Bird, Catchings, Parker and Taurasi returned with the bronze medal from the 2006 FIBA World Championship.
Three U.S. team members have earned USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year honors, including two-time winner Taurasi (2006, 2010), Augustus (2007) and Charles (2009).
All eleven athletes compete professionally in the WNBA and most continue to hone their games during the winter in China or Europe.
Auriemma will be assisted in the USA's quest for a gold medal by DePaul University head coach Doug Bruno, 1988 Olympic gold medalist and Washington Mystics assistant coach Jennifer Gillom and Atlanta Dream head coach Marynell Meadors.
The USA Basketball Women's National Team Player Selection Committee is comprised of WNBA representatives Reneé Brown, Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations; Dan Hughes, head coach/General Manager of the San Antonio Silver Stars; and Chief Operating Officer/General Manager of the Indiana Fever Kelly Krauskopf; athlete representative and five-time Olympian Teresa Edwards; and USA Basketball Women's National Team Director Carol Callan.
2012 Olympic Games
Four-time defending Olympic gold medalists, the U.S. will look to capture its fifth straight and seventh overall gold medal and extend its 33-game Olympic winning streak at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London. The Olympic women's basketball competition will be held July 28-Aug. 11 in the Olympic Park Basketball Arena (preliminary round and quarterfinals) and North Greenwich Arena (semifinals and finals).
The draw to determine the two preliminary round pools of six teams each is scheduled to be held April 28 at the FIBA Central Board meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The preliminary round, played July 28-Aug. 5, will feature a round-robin schedule and the top four finishing teams will advance to the Aug. 7 quarterfinals. The semifinals are scheduled for Aug. 9, and the finals will be played on Aug. 11.
Seven countries have claimed spots in the eventual 12-nation field, including host country Great Britain; the United States, which earned its berth by virtue of earning the gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship; and five nations which earned the gold medal at their respective FIBA zone qualifying tournaments, including Angola (FIBA Africa), Australia (FIBA Oceania), Brazil (FIBA Americas), China (FIBA Asia) and Russia (FIBA Europe).
The final five teams will earn their spots at the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament (June 25 - July 1 in Ankara, Turkey), which will feature 12 nations from each of the five 2011 FIBA zone qualifying tournaments as follows: two from FIBA Africa, including Mali (bronze medalists) and Mozambique (fifth-place finisher); three from FIBA Americas, including Argentina (silver medal), Canada (bronze medalist) and Puerto Rico (fifth-place finisher); two from FIBA Asia, including South Korea (silver medalist) and Japan (bronze medalist); four from FIBA Europe, including Turkey (silver medalist), France (bronze medalist), Czech Republic (fourth place) and Croatia (fifth place); and New Zealand (silver medalist) from FIBA Oceania.