Team USA’s path to a gold medal this summer is taking shape.
The United States will kick off the Olympics this summer in Tokyo with a matchup against France, FIBA and the Olympics announced on Tuesday after the draw in Switzerland.
The Americans, who will be led by San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, landed in Group A for the Games along with Iran and France. The winner of a qualifying tournament in June — Canada, Greece, China, Uruguay, Czech Republic and Turkey make up that six-team qualifying tournament in British Columbia — will also be added to the group.
Team USA’s first game against France is scheduled for July 25.
“It’s exciting to learn more about the Olympic schedule and who our preliminary-round opponents will be in Tokyo,” Popovich said in a statement. “The three Olympic preliminary groups appear to be well balanced, and there are a good number of teams who have legitimate shots at the gold.”
Australia leads Group B, along with Nigeria and the winners of two future qualifying tournaments in Croatia and Serbia. Argentina, Japan and Spain are in Group C, and will be joined by the Lithuania qualifying tournament winner.
The first two teams in each group will advance to the final tournament, along with the two best third-place teams among all groups. To win the gold medal, a team needs to play only six games.
USA women’s draw announced
The American women’s team landed in Group B for their tournament at the Olympics, FIBA announced on Tuesday, alongside Japan, France and Nigeria. They will open the tournament against Nigeria, which won the 2019 FIBA Africa tournament, on July 27.
“It doesn’t matter who is in our pool, although our pool will be competitive, we have the same goal as always and that is to win the gold,” Team USA and current South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said in a statement. “Nigeria is getting better every year, France is always a tough team to play and Japan has such a different style of play than what we’re used to seeing, plus they’re the home team. We are not looking past any of these opponents. We know that we will have to beat the best of the competition to make it to the top of the podium.”
Korea, Serbia, Canada and Spain landed in Group A. Australia, Puerto Rico, China and Belgium make up Group C. The women’s tournament will follow the same format as the men’s with just six games instead of the traditional eight.
“It is a different format than we are used to seeing, but I am OK with that,” Staley said. “We’ll play just six games instead of eight, which gives us more time to prepare between some of our games than we had in the past.”
Olympics pushing forward despite COVID-19
While the tournament field has been set for the rescheduled Tokyo Games this summer — the championship game is set for Aug. 7 — there are plenty of doubts surrounding the Olympics amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Games have been surrounded in what has felt like a constant cloud of doubt ever since they were first postponed in 2020, and it’s still not clear how they will logistically move forward. Reports last month suggested that the Games were going to be canceled completely, as Japan is dealing with a significant spike in coronavirus cases and an overwhelming majority of Japanese citizens not wanting the Olympics to be held.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday that they are extending the state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and eight other prefectures for another month, according to CNN. The country is nearing the 400,000-case mark and has recorded more than 5,800 deaths since the pandemic began, and there are almost 50,000 patients in need of hospital-level medical care due to the coronavirus, per the report.
The International Olympic Committee denied the report that the Games were going to be canceled and have said that they are still moving forward with the Olympics. Suga echoed that statement last week, too.
“We are holding the Olympics and Paralympics this summer,” Suga said at the World Economic Forum. “I am determined to achieve the Games as a proof of human victory against the pandemic, a symbol of global solidarity and to give hope and courage across the world.”
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