Two of the biggest threats to the U.S. women’s basketball’s team quest for a sixth straight gold medal have qualified for the Rio Olympics.
Australia, which earned medals at the last five Olympics (losing to the U.S. in the semifinals or final each time), beat New Zealand in a home-and-home series to lock up the Oceania berth.
The Aussies were without stalwart frontcourt players Lauren Jackson and Liz Cambage, their top two scorers at the London Olympics. Jackson, 34, is injured but hopeful for Rio. Cambage, 23, was controversially left off the qualifying roster.
Canada prevailed over Cuba in the FIBA Americas title game Sunday to clinch a spot in Rio. The U.S. didn’t compete in FIBA Americas as it qualified for the Olympics by winning the 2014 World Championship.
Canada, which hasn’t advanced past the Olympic quarterfinals since 1984, is on the upswing thanks to the addition of rising Connecticut sophomore Kia Nurse. The guard led Canada past a U.S. team of college players in the Pan American Games gold-medal game in July.