Jim Souhan: Lynx stars are Minnesota's golden girls after U.S. claims gold again

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 13, 2012 - 6:43 AM

Heading home to vie for another title, Minnesota champions heft weighty souvenirs. For the fifth Olympics in a row, the United States emerged a champion.

LONDON — They'll be leaving soon, heading back to Minneapolis to try to win a second consecutive WNBA title, and they'll have to remember to put their newly acquired chunks of metal into the screening tray at the airport.

Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen won't make it through security wearing what they won on Saturday.

"It's heavy," Whalen said, hefting the medal after the game. "It's awesome, too. It's really cool."

The three Lynx players who helped the United States win the gold medal game Saturday against France 86-50 all find themselves at different stages of their careers. They can't predict whether they'll play together again in Rio during the 2016 Olympics.

This might have been their one chance to win an Olympic gold medal together. "It's kind of all happening so fast, but this is definitely so sweet," Moore said. "I'm savoring this moment. There's no secret to my success: I've had the best teams."

There's no doubt about the dominance of the U.S. women. They've won five gold medals in a row, more than any other women's team competing in a traditional team sport in the Olympics. They have won 41 straight Olympic games.

All three Lynx players contributed heavily at times, but it is a measure of their team's dominance that they didn't have to do much for the USA to win the gold medal game in a blowout.

Whalen had three points and two assists. Moore had six points, seven rebounds, two assists and a steal. Augustus had eight points and a rebound.

Candace Parker, moved out of the starting lineup in favor of Moore, dominated, scoring 21 points and collecting 11 rebounds.

"This is pretty crazy," said Whalen, who missed the cut for the 2008 Olympic team and spent four years making sure that wouldn't happen again. "Hard work pays off, and all those times in the offseason, going overseas and getting better, it all pays off."

On a team filled with multiple gold medal winners and international stars, though, it was Moore who emerged as the future star of the American team.

She is an Olympic starter at 23. Her teammates predict she will win four or five golds, and as the tournament progressed, she spoke with increasing depth and passion about her teammates and the legacy of the American team.

Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings are currently Team USA's veteran leaders. Moore is next in line.

"This is a dream, to be able to play with all of these players," Moore said. "Some of them, I grew up watching, the captains of this team. I watched them in college and in the WNBA, watched them lead the way for the new generation of players, and I'm glad I got a chance to learn from them this last month.

"It's kind of bittersweet, that our time together is ending, but there are so many good memories to grab onto."

The three Lynx have tasted victory, and keep coming back for seconds.

Augustus won her second Olympic gold Saturday. Whalen played on the 2010 world championship team before adding the WNBA title last summer and her first Olympic gold Saturday. Moore has won championships at every level, yet she seemed acutely aware of how unique each one can be, and how important it is for the ambassadors of a less-celebrated sport to seize audiences every chance they get.

"We want to make sure we put in 40 good minutes of basketball every night so that the people who came to see us walk away feeling full," she said. "And satisfied. And yet wanting more. I never stopped playing hard until I got subbed out of the game."

Soon, the three will try to dominate another WNBA postseason, try to win three major championships in 13 months.

"We'll enjoy this for a while," Whalen said. "And then, well, I think we have a game next Friday."

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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