While many Americans were sleeping, the U.S. women’s 3x3 basketball team went undefeated in its first six games of the Tokyo Olympics to secure the No. 1 seed in the semifinals.
It was a start to the brand-new Olympic event that recalled the illustrious legacy of the more traditional U.S. team — which is exactly what Sky center Stefanie Dolson said was the goal of their four-player team.
On Wednesday morning, they solidified their own place in USA basketball lore by winning the first Olympic gold in 3x3 history.
“Years from now when the story of the start of 3x3 is told, it can’t be told without them winning the first gold medal,” coach Kara Lawson said.
The weeklong competition of nine games that took no more than 30 minutes each flew by. But the journey leading this team to gold was slow and methodical.
That was especially true for Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum.
She tore her Achilles last June playing 3x3 in preparation for an Olympics still scheduled for 2020. The postponement of the
Tokyo Games because of the COVID-19 pandemic allowed her to recover and return to the Olympic team.
When Plum put the gold medal around her neck earlier in the week, she reflected on the significance of the date. It was exactly one year earlier that she took her first steps post-surgery.
“This has been a long time coming for the people that have been in this group,” Plum said ahead of the semifinals. “But it has gone fast in a different way. This tournament is nonstop.”
The pace of play and physicality is what enticed new fans, including Dolson’s Sky teammates, Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot.
Dolson said she was talking with them every day throughout the tournament via text messages and direct messages on social media.
Most conversations were taking place after her teammates had caught up on the games the night before. She didn’t expect everyone to wake up in the middle of the night.
Dolson’s Sky teammates were up for the gold-medal game against the Russian Olympic Committee, watching as she led the U.S. in points (seven) and rebounds (nine).
“We know how long she’s worked for this,” Vandersloot said. “We’ve talked about this day with her for a long time. We knew from the beginning being an Olympian was a huge dream for her.”
Dolson is a two-time NCAA champion from the UConn dynasty. She was picked sixth overall in the 2014 WNBA Draft and is a two-time WNBA All-Star.
Her gold medal sits at the top of all prior accomplishments.
“To win this one for my country is something that I’ve dreamed of and wanted for a long time,” Dolson said.
Dolson and the rest of her 3x3 teammates left Tokyo on Friday. The Sky resumed workouts this week and will welcome Dolson back next week marking the start to the second half of the season.