The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 They are already in history and in basketball they had the history of (almost) always: beyond the occasional shock, The United States became champion in the male and female branch by seventh time in the last eight editions. Kevin Durant managed to match Carmelo Anthony’s record with his third gold medal while Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi got their fifth gold– NBA and WNBA stars entering their names into the golden pages of international basketball.
The United States previously won gold medals in basketball, but their Olympic dominance grew even more since NBA players were allowed to participate in 1992 of this event. Between 1972 and 1988 they had barely won two golds (without having participated in Moscow 1980 and without having the Soviet Union as a rival in Los Angeles 1984). Since Barcelona 1992, only once have they not climbed to the highest step of the podium: It was in Athens 2004, when Argentina displaced them to third place. At the same time in 20 editions of men’s Olympic basketball they only missed the podium in Moscow.
Among women its predominance is even greater, as demonstrated by a team that in Tokyo he only won one game by a difference of less than 10 points (81-72 to Nigeria in the debut) and that accumulate 55! consecutive wins in this tournament, in which has not lost since the semifinals of Barcelona 1992, event in which he finished third. Everything has been gold medals since then, coinciding with the development of the 1996 Atlanta champion team filled with legends who later participated in the WNBA, competition that started in 1997 and in which all the 2020 Olympic champions compete (the same happens with the NBA).
The WNBA team never lost. That of the NBA hardly fell with Puerto Rico, Lithuania and Argentina in 2004 and with France in 2020. Basketball has grown internationally in the last 30 years, but the United States continues to be at the top of the sport, something that curiously, it is far from happening in any other Olympic team sport (soccer, volleyball, handball, field or ice hockey and water polo).
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In the last eight editions of the Olympic Games the two American teams have the same record: seven gold medals, none silver and one bronze. In another sport, the teams closest to that success in terms of number of gold medals have just four (United States in women’s soccer and Canada in women’s ice hockey, two sports that have been Olympic since 1996 and 1998 respectively). In the total medals no one has achieved eight in eight editions: Australia peeks out with seven in men’s field hockey and the United States did not fail in women’s water polo (Olympic since Sydney 2000) like Canada in women’s ice hockey but having played fewer tournaments.
Not to mention a predominance of the same country in the two branches of the same sport. Let’s review case by case to take a bigger dimension.
In men’s basketball Argentina is, since 1992, the only team to get a gold medal besides the United States while Lithuania and Spain They are the ones with the highest number of medals of the rest: three bronze medals for the Lithuanians and two silver and one bronze for the Spanish. In the women’s branch Australia has five medals since Barcelona 1992 but he was never champion: three are silver and two are bronze. Between the men just in Tokyo 2020 they got their first podium with a third place.
The volleyball has to Brazil as triple men’s champion since 1992 and owner of five medals in that branch as Russia (London champion 2012) e Italy (loser of three finals). Brazil also has the five medals among women but only with two gilt: the same thing happens to United States with only one first place. Cuba he was champion in Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 but only once again reached the podium (bronze in Athens 2004) and since 2008 he has not participated again.
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The field hockey, a popular sport in a much smaller number of countries, does not reach a case similar to that of basketball. Between the men Germany He was a three-time champion in the indicated period of time but missed the podium three times, for example he could not climb in Tokyo. Australia has seven medals, having only missed the podium in Rio 2016, but was only crowned in Athens 2004. Netherlands, of four medals in men’s hockey, dominates a lot in the feminine with three gold, two silver and one bronzeBut he falls short of the perfect podium record for his sixth place in 1992. Argentina has five medals without having become champion.
Soccer is a special case: since 1992 the men’s tournament It is restricted to players under the age of 23 with some exceptions. Thus he has seen only two teams repeat the title: Argentina in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 and Brazil in Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. Argentina also has the second place in Atlanta 1996 and Brazil the silver in London 2012 and the bronzes of 1996 and Beijing 2008, being Canarinha the only team with more than three medals in this period of time. Only seven tournaments were played among women: there was no women’s football in Barcelona 1992. United States won four golds, but in Rio 2016 he missed the podium, while Germany it owns four medals but a single gold one (London 2012). Brazil (two silver in women’s football) and Germany (a silver in men’s soccer) they are the only countries with podiums in both sexes.
Men’s handball saw France win three of the eight tournaments played since 1992 and they have been the team with the most podiums since then: five medals for the Gauls, one more than those possessed by Sweden with its four silvers or Spain with its four bronzes. It was only in 2016 that France won a women’s handball medal and only in Tokyo 2020 did he get the gold. Among women the predominance is Norway with six medals (They were fourth in Atlanta 1996 and did not qualify for Athens 2004), a country that in men’s handball never reached a semifinal. Denmark was female champion in 1996, 2000 and 2004 and male in 2016, but between the two sexes it collects one medal less than France.
The water polo presents a smaller sample among women, being an Olympian since 2000. United States was gold in 2012, 2016 and 2020 and podium in the three previous editions and Australia (champion in 2000) is the only other country with more than two medals. Among the men of this sport United States he barely owns a silver medal and Hungary He was three-time champion (2000, 2004 and 2008) although since 1992 he collected fewer medals than Serbia (gold in 2016 and 2020, silver in 2004 and bronze in 2000, 2008 and 2012), which in 1992 could not participate and in 1996 it was eighth (in 2000 and 2004 it won medals being Serbia and Montenegro).
The Winter Olympics introduce ice hockey, who has played eight men’s tournaments since 1992 and has Canada as the dominator in both sexes but without the effectiveness of American basketball. In the men’s division, Canadians have collected three gold, two silver and one bronze medals since Albertville 1992, missing the podium at Nagano 1998 and Turin 2006. 1998 was just the first edition of women’s ice hockey, in which Canada and the United States have not failed on the podium but in which they shared the biggest hitGolds for Canada in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 and for the United States in 1998 and 2018.
The baseball (contested only by men) and the softball (contested only by women) have been intermittent in the Olympic program but they also do not have a team winning at least 85% of the competitions: what is most similar to that is the United States softball team, gold in 1996, 2000 and 2004 and silver in 2008 and 2020, without missing a final. The rugby seven has to Fiji as a men’s champion in 2016 and 2020, but he’s only been on the Olympic program since the Rio Games.
Another curiosity that paints the American dominance in basketball is that while since 1992 they have won the two gold medals of the same sport six times (1996, 2000, 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020), that was only imitated four times in other team sports: Canada did it in ice hockey in Salt Lake City 2002, Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 Y France at the Tokyo 2020 handball.
The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the NBA or its organizations.