Diana Taurasi seeks 4th straight Olympic basketball gold with U.S.
Star guard inspired by talented American squad entering Rio tourney
By Doug Harrison, CBC Sports
Three Olympic gold medals. Three WNBA titles. Three-time NCAA champion. Six international championships in the EuroLeague.
Diana Taurasi, a veteran on the United States women's basketball team, seemingly has accomplished all she can in the sport.
Yet, she appears hungry for more success at age 34.
"I think the one thing I could keep doing is playing at that [elite] level. I think at this point in my career that's probably the driving force," Taurasi told CBC Sports.
"Every season is a new challenge; every team is new, so those things still excite me about the game of basketball. It keeps me coming back every season."
Taurasi continues to flourish, thanks in part to her competitive spirit along with modifications in diet and training.
In Rio de Janeiro, Taurasi and 11 others will attempt to lead the U.S. to a sixth consecutive gold in women's basketball and eighth overall since it became an Olympic sport in 1976.
"I've been more motivated by it than anything," said Taurasi of playing consistently at a first-class level. "To try and stay there physically and mentally … to make sure I'm doing all the right things that I need to do to play for a while."
Taurasi's third Olympic gold came at the 2012 London Summer Games when she posted nine points and six assists in a 86-50 rout of France, the 41st straight Olympic victory for the Americans dating back to the bronze-medal contest in 1992.
Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings and Taurasi, who grew up in Chino, Calif., were all members of the gold-medal squads in 2004 in Athens and 2008 in Beijing.
This year's U.S. team is a mix of youth in newcomers Elena Delle Donne, Brittney Griner and Breanna Stewart, along with veterans and those in between.
Delle Donne is the reigning WNBA MVP and Griner probably would have played on the 2012 Olympic outfit but withdrew from consideration due to a family illness. Stewart, at 21 the youngest member of the team, has played in 69 international games, the fifth most of any player on the U.S. Olympic roster.
"You're talking about 12 of the best players in the world," said Taurasi, a five-time WNBA scoring champion who is eyeing a fourth title with the Phoenix Mercury. "That is something incredible when you're in that locker room and look around and see that kind of talent. It's inspiring."
Taurasi expects the U.S. team to be in tough against Canada, which has built on the momentum that began with a quarter-final appearance in London and continued with last summer's thrilling and historic gold at the Pan Am Games in Toronto.
"You know it's going to be a hard 40 minutes," said Taurasi, the third WNBA player to reach 7,000 points. "They're physical, play hard every possession and offensively they're hard to guard. … They can compete with anyone in the world."
Taurasi and company will also face Senegal, Serbia, Spain and China in Group B in hopes of playing for gold at the 16,000-seat Carioca Arena 1 on Aug. 20.
"Those are special moments," said Taurasi. "When you have the opportunity to win a gold medal, nothing else matters. Your sole focus is to win the game."