By Steve Keating
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Geno Auriemma, coach of the U.S. women’s Olympic gold medal-winning basketball team, says he is constantly reminded that, “It’s not whether you win or lose — until you lose”.
And that is easy to forget when losing is something you rarely experience.
The U.S. women rubber-stamped their credentials as an Olympic dynasty when they claimed a sixth straight gold on Saturday with a 101-72 rout of Spain that ran their Games winning record to a staggering 49-0.
Only two other teams can claim such a run of domination at the Olympics.
The U.S. men’s basketball team earned seven consecutive gold medals from 1936-1968 while India claimed six straight men’s field hockey titles from 1928-1956.
On Sunday, the American men’s squad delivered an equally ruthless performance in crushing Serbia 96-66 to collect their third straight gold, extending their unbeaten run on Olympic hardwood to 25-0.
Without many of their top players, including LeBron James and Stephen Curry, the United States was more “B Team” than “Dream Team” but still finished 8-0.
The United States gave fans glimpses of their dominant best in Rio but their play did not always live up to the high expectations that follow them to every Olympics.
A record 46 current NBA players featured on national team rosters in the men’s basketball tournament, and with the game growing globally there are signs that the gap is closing – even if it its just a little.
However, the United States’ status as the world’s undisputed basketball super power is likely to remain unchallenged for the foreseeable future with no country coming close to matching a talent pool which allowed close to a dozen of their top players to decline Olympic invitations but still win gold.
When it comes to the women’s competition, it seems likely the United States will eventually claim the crown as the greatest Olympic team of all time.
The perception at the start of each Olympic tournament is that everyone else is playing for silver and bronze, conceding gold to the Americans.
“It’s mind boggling when you think about it what this team has been able to accomplish, this program,” said Auriemma.
“There is such a level of expectation, such a level of respect and it filters down. Everyone who puts that jersey on they get it.
“We’re doing stuff that may never be done again.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)