Host City: Beijing, China
Venue(s): Olympic Basketball Gymnasium, Beijing
Date Started: August 9, 2008
Date Finished: August 23, 2008
Format: Round-robin pools advance teams to classification matches.
Unlike the United States’ men, whose basketball dominance was waning in the 21st century, the US women had become the pre-eminent team since the mid-1990s. Since 1984, the US women had won every gold medal, except for 1992, when they earned a bronze. In that stretch, they had lost only one game, against 39 wins. Their overall Olympic basketball record, including 1976, was 42-3. They had also won the World Championships in 1979, 1986, 1990, 1998, and 2002. But in 2006, they had been defeated by Australia in the semi-finals at the World, and Australia was considered to be their biggest challenger in Beijing. The Aussies had finished second at both the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.
The United States was drawn in Group B and won all five of their games easily. Australia did the same in Group A, as the two advanced to the elimination rounds. Both won their quarter-finals easily, the US defeating Korea, 104-60, and Australia over the Czech Republic, 79-46. Australia also had an easy time in the semis with China, winning 90-56, but the Americans were pushed by the Russian team, eventually winning 67-52. Thus the two favorites advanced to the final, and it was not close. The US reeked havoc, possibly in revenge for the loss at the 2006 Worlds, defeating the Australians 92-65, to win their fourth consecutive gold medal, and six of the last seven. The US was led by Lisa Leslie, who had played for all four US teams since 1996. Katie Smith also won her third consecutive gold medal. Australia was led by their center, [Lauren Jackson], who had become a big star in the American WNBA, and won her third consecutive silver medal.