At the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the U.S. women’s basketball team will work to win a sixth gold medal. The U.S. team has won the championship at every summer games since 1996.
Both the women’s and the men’s basketball teams are staying on a cruise ship during the games. They hope that will help them avoid possible health and security problems in Rio. The nine-level, 196-cabin Silver Cloud is their floating hotel.
Before leaving for Rio, the players gathered around USA Basketball Managing Director Jerry Colangelo. He told them their team will be a special target at the games.
Not only has the women's team won five gold medals in a row, they also have not lost a single game since the 1992 Olympics.
Some players spoke to VOA during their last practice in the U.S.
Tamika Catchings explained how the team mentally prepares for the competition.
"We just have to know that we have a target on our backs and every single country has been preparing for the past three or four years for this opportunity to play in the Olympics," she said. "So, for us, we cannot just get comfortable and think we are just going to walk out on the court and automatically win. We have been preparing the way we always do, focusing on every single game individually, and we will be competitive."
Catchings already has three gold medals. But, she is close to the end of her playing career at 37 years old. This Olympics is her chance to win one more gold medal.
"I feel great about going. I am excited about representing my country another time, and this is my last time, so I am even more excited," she said.
She is not the only player with more than one gold medal. The team has four one-time gold medalists, two two-time gold medalists and three women who brought home four gold medals.
Maya Moore won at the 2012 Olympics in London. She told reporters that the final practice in Houston, Texas helped the team get ready for the games.
"We are pushing each other," she said. "If we can do it against each other, we can do it against anyone in the world."
The women’s head coach, Geno Auriemma, told VOA he is not wasting time or energy thinking about the possible problems in Rio. They include the Zika virus, polluted water and hotel rooms in disrepair. There is also some political and social unrest and, of course, concern about possible terrorist attacks.
"The focus is on winning a gold medal. All the other stuff that's around there, whether we worry about it or not, it is not going to make any better. It is not going to make it go away, so we are just going to deal with it," Auriemma said.
Staying on a boat takes care of some of the health concerns. But the team members still need to be careful of mosquitoes when going outside. Getting to the games through heavy traffic is another problem.
Player Brittney Griner is the team’s tallest, at just over two meters. She told reporters she feels sure the U.S. Olympic Committee has dealt with all the issues of concern.
She is excited about staying with her teammates on a floating hotel.
"We are staying on a boat the whole time," she said with a smile. "It will be my first time ... so I am pretty excited for that!"
The women’s first game will be Sunday, August 7. Team USA Women’s Basketball team will play Senegal.
I'm Caty Weaver.
VOA correspondent Greg Flakus wrote this story. Anne Ball adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
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Words in this Story
medal - n. a piece of metal often in the form of a coin with designs and words in honor of a special event, a person, or an achievement
practice - v. to do something again and again in order to become better at it
opportunity - n. an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done
comfortable - adj. not causing any physically unpleasant feelings
automatically - adv. happening or done without deliberate thought or effort
focus - v. to direct your attention or effort at something specific