Duke basketball certainly left its mark on the Tokyo Olympics.
With Chelsea Gray helping the U.S. women’s team to a dominanating 90-75 win against Japan on Sunday, the final day of the Games, representatives of the Blue Devils had a hand in winning championships in all three of the divisions they were involved.
A day earlier, Jayson Tatum won gold with the men’s team while current Duke women’s coach Kara Lawson coached the U.S. women’s 3-on-3 team to victory in the debut of its event.
Gray, who played point guard for the Blue Devils from 2010-14, is the first Duke women’s player to represent the U.S. in the Olympics. She currently plays in the WNBA for the Las Vegas Aces.
In six Olympic games, Gray averaged 7.3 poings and 3.2 assists per game off the bench, shooting 58.1% from the floor. She scored six points and handed out four assists in 24 minutes of the final, which clinched the seventh straight gold medal for the U.S.
The women’s basketball victory was one of four that earned Americans gold medals on the final day of the Olympics, bringing the country’s total to 39 and helping the U.S. overtake China for the most at the games.
Final medal count
________________________________Gold Silver Bronze Total
USA 39 41 33 113
China 38 32 18 88
ROC 20 28 23 71
Great Britain 22 21 22 65
Japan 27 14 17 58
Athletes with ties to North Carolina accounted for 29 medals during the past 16 days in Tokyo (7 gold, 13 sliver, nine bronze). It’s a total that would have ranked the state 11th among the countries participating at the Games, ahead of Canada, Brazil, Korea and many other of the 90 nations that won medals.
While coaches don’t get medals their players earn, they do share in the title of Olympic champion. Sunday, on the final day of the Games, NC State volleyball coach Luka Slabe earned that honor as an assistant for the U.S. women’s volleyball team that defeated Brazil 3-0 in the championship match.
Team USA Highlights
The U.S. won its first Olympic gold medal ever in women’s volleyball by beating Brazil in straight sets. The Americans had won silver three times and bronze twice previously for the most medals by any country that hadn’t won gold. They finally completed that quest by beating the country that denied them gold in the final match in both 2008 and 2012. The victory allowed U.S. coach Karch Kiraly to join China’s Lang Ping as the second person to win gold as a player in volleyball and then lead a country to gold as coach. Kiraly won gold indoor as a player in 1984 and ’88. He also won gold in beach volleyball in 1996.
Jennifer Valente got up from a crash in the omnium-ending points race to hang on for the gold medal in the Omnium points race, capping what had been an otherwise frustrating and disappointing Olympics for American cycling. Valente won the opening scratch race, picked up three sprints in the points race and performed well in the elimination race to take an eight-point lead into the points race, where points are awarded for sprints every 10 laps. She wound up taking second in the final sprint to secure the gold medal.
Because of last year’s postponement, the next summer Olympics is only three years away in Paris. The next winter Olympics will happen even sooner, just seven months from now in Beijing, China from February 4-20, 2022.
The Associated Press contributed to this story