Canada Women’s Basketball Olympic Preview

Photo Credit: Canada Basketball

The time is now for the Canadian Women’s Basketball team.

After successive quarterfinal exits in the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the team is ready to take the next step and go for gold with arguably their greatest roster ever.

Ranked fourth in the world in the FIBA rankings, coach Lisa Thomaidis’ team is expected to compete for their first podium appearance in history, and the first for Canada Basketball since the 1936 Games in Germany.

The Squad

Raptors’ fans will find a familiar face leading the charge for Canada, as 25-year old Phoenix Mercury star and part-time TSN studio analyst Kia Nurse will be suiting up for her second Olympic games. In 19 starts for the Mercury this season, Nurse is averaged 9.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.

Nurse is one of three WNBA players on Team Canada. Natalie Achonwa is a forward for the Minnesota Lynx, appearing in eight games this season. She’s been out of action since June 14, when she suffered an MCL injury, and is questionable to appear in what would be her third Olympic tournament. Lynx teammate Bridget Carleton rounds out the WNBA contingent of the squad; the 24-year old has averaged 4.8 points per game in 19 appearances in the 2021 season.

Canada will also be led by veteran Miranda Ayim, who will serve as one of the country’s flag-bearers at the opening ceremonies on Friday. The 33-year old forward, currently playing for Basket Landes in France, is one of three players left from the 2012 team.

The other veteran of the London games is Kim Boucher, a 37-year old native of Surrey, British-Columbia who has been representing Canada on the international stage since 2001. The former first-round pick in the WNBA Draft plays professionally in France, and made headlines recently when she was finally allowed to bring along her three month-old daughter to Tokyo, after the Olympic Committee initially prohibited nursing mothers from bringing their infants into athlete accommodations.

Six players will make their Olympic debuts for Canada this coming week. Kayla Alexander, Shay Colley and Carleton are set to appear on the game’s biggest stage for the first time, as well as college players Laeticia Amihere, Aaliyah Edwards and Shaina Pellington.

With a good mix of veterans and fresh faces, Canada expects to not only live up to the standards they’ve set in previous tournaments, but exceed them and put up a serious challenge for the gold medal.

The Group and Schedule

Team Canada was placed in Group A, alongside Korea, Spain and Serbia, when the tournament’s groups were drawn in February 2021.

According to Canada Basketball, “the Group Phase will be played in a round robin format, with each team playing all other teams in its group (a total of 3 games for each team).  The teams placed first and second in each group and the two best third-placed teams in the Group Phase qualify for the Final Phase.”

Korea is ranked 19 in the FIBA rankings, and should be an easy matchup for a highly-touted Canadian side. Serbia falls four spots behind Canada in eighth, according to FIBA. Serbia will be no pushover though, as the Balkan nation has won three of their last five tournaments, including the gold medal in the 2021 FIBA Women’s EuroBasket and the bronze medal in the 2016 Olympics.

But all eyes will be on Spain, who is just ahead of Canada in the FIBA rankings. Spain has been a force in women’s basketball of the last few years, capturing silver in the 2016 Olympics, bronze in the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup and gold in EuroBasket in 2019, 2017 and 2013. They will represent the biggest challenge for Canada to top Group A.

Nurse and Co. will kick off the tournament against Serbia on Monday, July 26 (4:20 AM EST). They’ll meet Korea on Wednesday, July 28 (9:00 PM EST) before a highly anticipated showdown with Spain on Saturday, July 31 (9:00 PM EST). All of the games will be broadcast on CBC.

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