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U.S. wins gold in Olympic debut of three-on-three basketball

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The U.S. women’s three-on-three basketball team took home gold Wednesday in the sport’s Olympic debut, defeating Russia 18-15 in the final. The U.S. team, led by Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young finished the tournament with an 8-1 record. 

Dolson, who plays for the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, led Team USA with seven points. As of Tuesday, the U.S. earned 11 gold, 11 silver and nine bronze medals. With 31 medals, the U.S. has more medals than any other country. 

To qualify, Team USA won both the Big Twelve International Tournament and the FIBA three-on-three Olympic Qualifying Tournament. But the team faced adversity even before stepping on the court. Earlier this month, Katie Young replaced Katie Lou Samuelson after she tested positive for COVID-19, sidelining her from the Games. 

Kara Lawson, head coach of the Duke Blue Devils’ women’s hoops team, has served as Team USA’s head coach since 2017. Lawson praised the team’s adaptability, especially through the grueling challenge of playing multiple games in the same day and never practicing together will all players before stepping on the court. 

“This group is a part of the beginning,” Lawson said in a news conference. “Years from now, as the story of 3×3 is told, it can’t be told without them winning the first gold medal in a really challenging fashion. The competition alone was really challenging but to have no practice with a player and come in and win the tournament, that’s not normal to do. I think it speaks to their toughness, their intelligence, their team spirit and their flexibility.”

This is the first year three-on-three basketball has been played as an Olympic sport. Each match is played for 21 minutes or until one team reaches 21 points first. 

Team USA celebrates winning gold. From left: Stefanie Dolson, Jaqueline Law, Kelsie Plum and Allisha Gray.

Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty

In May, the USA men’s three-on-three team failed to qualify for the Olympics when they were eliminated by the Netherlands. Latvia went on to win the gold medal game against the Russian Olympics committee. Many fans have attributed the loss to Team USA’s roster, which was made up of former NBA players. Meanwhile, the women’s roster was filled with current WNBA players. Plum and Young play for the Las Vegas Aces and Gray plays for the Dallas Wings.

Meanwhile, the U.S. women’s five-on-five team has won gold at the last six Olympic Games. Team USA is currently 1-0 after beating Nigeria 81-72 in the group stage. If they qualify, the gold-medal game will take place on August 7. WNBA stars Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi are hoping to become the first women’s basketball players to win gold five times.


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