Overall, there are 46 athletes with ties to Washington representing nine countries that will compete in 15 different sports in Rio.
Leilani Mitchell, a 5-foot-5 point guard, helped Australia defeat host Brazil, 84-66, on Saturday in its Rio Olympic Games opener of the women’s basketball tournament. Mitchell had 18 points and six assists.
Australia continues pool play Sunday against Turkey and plays France on Tuesday. USA Basketball, led by Storm point guard Sue Bird, opens its Olympic play Sunday against Senegal.
The Americans are in pursuit of a sixth consecutive gold medal. Australia, which is ranked second in the world, is looking for a sixth straight medal. The Opals, as the women’s basketball national team is called, won a bronze medal at the 2012 London Games.
“The teams before us have left a strong legacy and we are trying to follow in their footsteps,” said Mitchell via Australia’s Olympic website. Storm legend Lauren Jackson helped the country win three silvers and one bronze before retiring in March.
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“We have a good mix of youth and experience (this year), and there is a lot of excitement on our team,” Mitchell continued. “We have always been known for playing hard. We never give up and we are really fiery. We hope to do the same again this year.”
Mitchell helped Kennewick High win a Class 4A girls basketball state championship in 2000. This is her first Olympic Games, qualifying to compete for Australia because of her late mother’s heritage.
Overall, there are 46 athletes with ties to Washington representing nine countries that will compete in 15 different sports in Rio. In addition to Bird, rookie Breanna Stewart and Japanese forward Ramu Tokashiki are representing the Storm in the Summer Games.
The WNBA has 26 current and 23 former players (sans injuries) competing in Brazil. Mitchell’s former Phoenix Mercury leads with six players, including Australian star Penny Taylor, who recently announced her retirement.
Taylor had 17 points against Brazil.