The United States won both the men’s and women’s basketball gold medals, as expected, while the basketball world welcomes new blood to expand its influence.
Team USA beat France 87-82 against all adversity to win its fourth consecutive Olympic gold while their women’s counterpart defeated Japan 90-75 for its seventh straight title at the Olympics.
In one of the hardest championship finals in its history, the US fought back several surge-ups from France to maintain the victory for the once “Dream Team”.
Losing to France in the opener of the Games and two losses during the exhibition games, the US faced a tonne of doubt about the chemistry of the squad and the commitment to the national duty.
Without top stars like LeBron James, Steph Curry and Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant was the one to go to when the US had trouble.
Durant averaged 20.2 points to lead his team for the title.
“The relationships he builds with teammates, the respect he garners, the joy he has in playing is like osmosis. It goes into all the other players. That sort of love of the game and of people is what makes him more special than as a player,” US head coach Gregg Popovich said talking about Durant.
Unlike the men’s team, the US women stamped their superiority with another dominating victory in the Olympic finals.
From the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta to the 2016 Games in Rio, the US’ narrowest gold medal match-winning margin was an 11-point victory over Australia in 2004. Otherwise, they have won every Olympic final by more than 20 points.
They have won nine gold medals in the past 10 Olympics, with the only “blemishes” on their record, a bronze medal in 1992 after a semifinal defeat to the Unified Team.
Besides the dominating US teams, Japan, Slovenia and China had come up with some eye-opening performances in the tournament.
The Japanese women’s team finished with the first medal in its history after losing to the US in the finals.
The silver medal is the best result for hosts Japan, whose previous best, fifth placing, came from the 1976 Montreal in Canada. It also ties the best Olympic result in Asian women’s basketball as the second place as China won the silver medal in 1992.
The Chinese women’s team won all three matches in the group phase and topped the chart of 12 teams, even edging off the US to second place by points difference.
But the young and inexperienced Chinese stopped in the quarterfinals as they lost to Serbia and did not make history with the talented and promising squad.
First-timer Slovenia also stormed into the men’s semi-finals after finishing first in its group, only losing to France 90-89 to finish fourth in the tournament.
Slovenia’s top star Luka Doncic scored the Olympic second-best 48 points in the opener, averaging 23.8 points – third in the Tokyo Olympics, 9.7 rebounds (2nd) and 9.5 assists (1st).
Both China and Slovenia had shots to medal finishing in Tokyo and the door is open to more teams to grab the top honour.