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Sports >  International sports

Sue Bird chasing history entering fifth Olympics, where she’ll be joined by Storm teammates Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd

UPDATED: Mon., June 21, 2021

The Storm’s Olympians, from left, Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd.  (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)
The Storm’s Olympians, from left, Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd. (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)
By Percy Allen Seattle Times

The Seattle Storm will be well-represented at the Summer Olympics.

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Sue Bird headlines the U.S. women’s basketball team that’s going to the Tokyo Games and she’ll be joined by teammates Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd.

Stewart is making her second trip to the Olympics after winning a gold medal in 2016 while Loyd will be making her first appearance in the Summer Games.

The other members of the 12-player team include: Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith; Minnesota’s Sylvia Fowles and Napheesa Collier; Washington’s Tina Charles and Ariel Atkins; and Las Vegas’ A’ja Wilson and Chelsea Gray.

“We have an amazing opportunity where we have a lot of Olympians on our team and not many WNBA teams have that,” Stewart said. “It’s going to be a little bit interesting what we do with the break, but I don’t think it’s going to be any less productive. We’re going to have a lot of people playing and a lot of people practicing and hopefully just build on the chemistry when we get back.”

The WNBA will suspend its season for five weeks during the XXXII Olympic Games women’s basketball competition, which will be held July 26-Aug. 8 at the Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan.

Before embarking to Tokyo, the U.S. team will train for a week in Las Vegas and play in the WNBA All-Star Game on July 14 against a selection of the league’s top players.

“The fact that some of the players who won’t suit up this summer would start for any other country is a testament to their talent and to what USA basketball has done to build a program that lifts up our female athletes every single day,” U.S. Olympic Team head coach Dawn Staley said in a statement. “I’m so proud to be the coach of Team USA and like all of the coaches, support staff, and our players, I can’t wait to make America proud this summer.”

Former Storm coach Dan Hughes, Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve and Jennifer Rizzotti will serve as Team USA assistants.

Team USA is expected to announce the roster for the women’s 3-on-3 Olympic team later this week.

Earlier this month, Storm forward Katie Lou Samuelson teamed with Kelsey Plum, the former Washington Huskies star, Allisha Gray and Stephanie Dolson to earn the USA a spot in the Tokyo Games.

Storm forward Stephanie Talbot and center Ezi Magbegor will also compete in the Olympics this summer for the Australian national team.

“To be able to be around Sue and Jewell and potentially Katie Lou, it’s just an exciting opportunity for all of us to enjoy Sue’s potentially fifth gold-medal run and Jewell’s first,” Stewart said. “It’s an amazing experience and I’m really looking forward to being back representing the United States and finally getting the opportunity to go to Tokyo.”

The 40-year-old Bird and 39-year-old Taurasi are poised to become the seventh and eighth players to compete in five Olympic competitions.

They’re also looking to make history and would be the first athletes to win five Olympic gold medals in basketball, snapping a tie with Teresa Edwards who has four gold medals and a bronze.

Seventeen years after making her Olympic debut, Bird returns a little later than planned due to the coronavirus pandemic that forced Tokyo officials to postpone the 2020 Summer Games.

“Each Olympics is at a different point in your life so there are going to be differences in how you feel, but they’re all kind of special in their own way,” Bird said. “So this doesn’t feel that much different. It’s still exciting. It’s still going to be challenging. What makes this so unique is that it’s been put off for a year and the challenges of COVID still exist so we’ll see how it goes.”

Team USA opens pool play July 27 against Nigeria before facing host Japan on July 30 and France on Aug. 2.

The Americans are heavy favorites considering they’ve won seven of eight Olympic gold medals since 1984, including a streak of six in a row that began in 1996. The USA National Team’s record in Olympic competitions is 66-3.Stewart was a backup role player for Team USA in 2016, but the 26-year-old forward is looking to cement her claim as the best female basketball player in the world on biggest stage.

“I’m just going to continue to do what I do best,” said Stewart, who was the MVP while leading the U.S. to a FIBA World Cup championship in 2018. “Continue to help our team go for our seventh consecutive gold medal. I was a a baby in my first Olympics and now coming back five years later, I’m looking to continue to make an impact. Help everyone get better and help the people who haven’t been there before be there best and enjoy it.”

Loyd, 27, is one of six Americans who will make her Olympic debut.

“It means a lot,” she said. “If you look at the big picture, it’s history breaking what we could be going for and what we want to do. Being able to play with the GOATs (Bird and Taurasi), players that I’ve looked up to and grew up watching.

“It’s also special to be on the team with Stewie because we had an amazing couple of years obviously in Seattle, but knowing our journeys together and where we started. Playing in high school on the U-17 team and then coming up now and we’re on the bigger stage, that makes it special for me. … I know Sue and Diana’s friendship grew closer playing in the Olympics and hopefully that’s the same with us as well.”

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