From 1976 to 2012: A brief look at women’s basketball at the Olympics

Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Photo: Louisiana Tech Athletics.
Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Photo: Louisiana Tech Athletics.

Smith College physical education director Senda Berenson taught basketball to students in the winter of 1892. The college held its first women’s college basketball championship game on March 22, 1893 and 84 years later females competed in the sport in the Olympics. Basketball for men in the competition began in 1936.

In the short history of women’s basketball in the Olympics only three teams have won the gold medal. The Soviet Union took the first top medal in 1976 and again in 1980. The United States won in 1984, 1988, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008. The Unified Team, a mix of twelve former Soviet republics, won the gold in 1992.

Australia won the silver in the last three competitions and the bronze in 1996. Other teams that earned medals in the Olympics include Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Korea, China, Brazil and post-Soviet Russia.

The U.S., along with 65 other nations, boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics. The Soviet Union and Hungary boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Previous medalists

Year Host Gold medal game Bronze medal game
Gold Score Silver Bronze Score 4th place
1976 Montreal Soviet Union No playoffs USA Bulgaria No playoffs Poland
1980 Moscow Soviet Union 104–73 Bulgaria Yugoslavia 68–65 Hungary
1984 Los Angeles USA 85–55 Korea China 63–57 Canada
1988 Seoul USA 77–70 Yugoslavia Soviet Union 68–53 Australia
1992 Barcelona Unified Team 76–66 China USA 88–74 Cuba
1996 Atlanta USA 111–87 Brazil Australia 66–56 Ukraine
2000 Sydney USA 76–54 Australia Brazil 84–73 Korea
2004 Athens USA 74–63 Australia Russia 71–62 Brazil
2008 Beijing USA 92–65 Australia Russia 94–81 China
2012 London

*In 1976 the competition consisted of a single round-robin group where final standings were determined by the group’s rankings.

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One Comment

  • Yikes! (Now) coach Kim looks jaundiced in that photo. Didn't LaTech have any better pix?

    Thanks for the history recap.

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