The 2012 Australian Women's Olympic Team, otherwise known as the Opals, are an interesting team. In the history of their Olympic campaign, they have won three silver medals and one bronze. The 2012 squad has had an impressive concentration of talent and this year in London, they hope to finally achieve their Olympic ambition: winning a gold medal.
Off the court, the dynamic squad is notable for a variety of reasons. Here are 10 things that you should known about the Opals going into London 2012.
Leading the 2012 Australian women's Olympic team as their captain is Lauren Jackson. Jackson is one of the most celebrated female athletes in the world and arguably the best female basketball player currently playing the game.
The WNBA Seattle Storm player, is a three-time WNBA MVP and the youngest player to have scored 3,000 and 4,000 points in WNBA records.
Internationally, she has broken records for her performances on the Olympic team since the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where she was the leading scorer and rebounder with an impressive 127 points, 23 blocked shots, 12 steals and 67 rebounds.
The Opals have taken home silver medals at the last three Olympics Games: Sydney, Athens and Beijing. Each and every time they have lost in the finals to the U.S. team. This year, the team is more committed than ever to a dominant performance that will give them both the edge over their competition and a gold medal.
The Opals have participated in training camps both in 2011 and 2012, while staying dedicated to their basketball careers outside of the national team. The Opals aren't shy about saying that a silver medal is no longer good enough.
Anything other than a gold medal in London will be extremely disappointing.
The Opals have a major rivalry with the U.S. Olympic team, which has sometimes resulted in drama. Lauren Jackson publicly spoke to Alpha magazine about one incident, where during a game at the Sydney Olympic Games, Jackson pulled out her longtime rival and fellow WNBA player Lisa Leslie's hair extensions.
Lisa Leslie, who played for the U.S. Olympic team, would fire back by wearing all four of her gold medals during the awards ceremony in Beijing in 2008.
Although Leslie will not be a part of the U.S. team this year, the Opals still maintain their heated rivalry with the American team, as they have lost to them in every gold medal game in their last three Olympic meetings.
Carrie Graf is a true gift to women’s sports. She fills the head coach position for the 2012 Opals team and has an outstanding resume to prove she’s worthy of the spot.
Graf has received honors for her work with the Australian team and internationally with the WNBA, including, being the first Australian to coach in the WNBA and being named the most prolific coach in WNBL records, with an outstanding record of 203 wins and 64 losses.
Graf was the assistant coach at the 1996 Olympic Games in Athens and the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, both of which resulted in medals.
Opals forward Penny Taylor has been a vital member of the team for over a decade. She will be missing from the squad this year, as the Australian leading lady will be unable to compete due to a knee injury.
Lauren Jackson confirmed to The Australian's Simon King, that overcoming Taylor's absence will be a huge obstacle for the Opals on their quest for Olympic gold. Taylor, Jackson and Liz Cambage were the core of the Opals structure going in to London this summer.
Many members of the Opals team are active WNBA players. In order to partake in Olympic training camps, based in the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra, Australia, the players could not play in the early WNBA regular season.
In fact, the Opals have committed more time to Olympic training this year than is normally required. The training camps have been extended to allow for additional preparation, with the hope that the tactic will improve their performance as a team in London.
Notice something different about the Opals basketball uniform? Instead of wearing the traditional basketball uniform of loose shorts and a singlet, which is standard for other national basketball teams as well as basically every other basketball organization, the Opals dressed in very tight, revealing bodysuits.
The Australian Olympic team was named the Opals for both cultural and historical reasons. The Opals are named after the gemstone that Australia has been producing and trading since the 1800s and is responsible for 90 percent of world output.
The men's team, the Boomers, also have a name that was picked up from Australian cultural references. "Boomers" are a slang term for kangaroo.
Lauren Jackson and Erin Phillips have both posed for near-nude modelling photo in order to raise funds and gain publicity leading up to the games. In 2008, Erin Phillips was photographed by Alpha magazine in a lingerie shoot to help get the Opals noticed.
Phillips was following in teammate Lauren Jackson's footsteps. Jackson had previously appeared in an Australian magazine named Black+White, just before the Athens Olympics for the purpose of fundraising.
Liz Cambage is about to become the "Next Big Thing" in women's basketball. Cambage has been cited as the next Lauren Jackson, making the Opals home to both the world's current and future best female basketball players.
Cambage might in fact have a slight advantage over Jackson. Cambage is taller than Jackson, at 6'8", and has already been named MVP in the WNBA. In addition, she is one of the few players on the team who can dunk.