USA Takes Double Gold: A Look Back at the Summer of '86
Feb. 4, 2010 - Colorado Springs, Colo.
Prior to the 2010 World Championships, USA men's and women's teams have captured 'double gold' in the same World Championship year only once.
In 1986 cracks were beginning to show in the Soviet Bloc's Iron Curtain. From the Chernobyl disaster, to the Soviet War in Afghanistan, which was already over six years old and going nowhere, the USSR's days were numbered.
The basketball world mirrored what was happening on the political front as the dominating Soviets began to crumble on the hardwood as well.
The USA men, comprised of college players, and USA women, most of whom were young collegians , were underdogs heading into the summer's competitions. The men were young and relatively untested internationally. The USA women were nearing the top, but still hadn't defeated the Soviets since a 51-48 victory nearly way back at the 1957 Worlds.
The Soviet women, on the other hand, boasted 152 wins in their past 154 major international games (Olympics, World Championships and European Championships). Their two losses were to Bulgaria in the 1958 European Championship and to the U.S. in the 1957 FIBA World Championship, and they had never lost a game in the Soviet Union. The Soviet men had medaled in each of the past six World Championships, including three golds, and featured an internationally seasoned roster.
The newly-created Goodwill Games were hosted in Moscow from July 5-10. However, the men's World Championship was being contested at the same time in Spain, so it was decided that the winner of the men's Worlds would collect both World Championship and Goodwill Games gold. The women would play in the Goodwill Games as planned and then return to the USSR for the Aug. 10-17 FIBA World Championship.
Both the USA men's and women's teams, led by future U.S. Olympic Hall of Famers Teresa Edwards and David Robinson, did the unthinkable in 1986 and toppled the Soviet giants. In a look back at the overall success USA Basketball had in the summer of '86, we bring you the story that ran in the December 1986 ABAUSA News.
-That's the longest game I've ever played in," Robinson said following the USA's two-point victory over the Soviets in the gold medal game. -I didn't think it would ever end.
-We've heard how everyone was disappointed that we didn't have more top players. We had a lot more talent than people thought, and we put it together very nicely."
Former USC star and USA leading scorer in the gold medal game, Cheryl Miller had this to say about the Soviets in the final contest: -I did get a little nervous. They were setting tremendous picks and they were hard to defend against."
She added: -This is probably the most talented team I've played on. We've got a lot of heart and spirit, and the girls were great, willing to adjust and sacrifice."
While the hoops world has changed over the years, with different teams stepping up to challenge for gold, it is USA Basketball's hope that it will again have the opportunity to feature a Double Gold story in the December 2010 USA Basketball News.
NOTE: The USA women's 1957 World Championship gold medal and the USA men's 1954 World Championship gold happened in the same cycle as both took place in the second FIBA World Championship, but USA teams didn't claim gold in the same year. In 1986 FIBA synched up its calendar so that the men's and women's Worlds would be played in the same year. Prior to 1986 the FIBA World Championship was held for men and women just twice in the same year: 1959 and 1967.