After Canada lost to Spain in group play to fall to 1-2, it seemed likely that it’d qualify for group play based on the team’s positive point differential. But when Australia beat Puerto Rico by 27 points on Monday, August 2, the result dropped Canada out of the elimination stages. The team, which had been ranked fourth in the world before the Olympics began, no longer has a chance to medal.
All in all, it was a disappointing tournament. Because it was such a short tournament, with only three games played, Canada didn’t have a chance to reach its stride. Their defense was stellar for stretches, but they struggled to control the paint, which led to their downfall against Spain. That makes plenty of sense, particularly with the Olympics being Natalie Achonwa’s first game action since her MCL sprain in June. Similarly, Canada’s leading scorers in Kia Nurse and Bridget Carleton were excellent for stretches, but not consistent enough for Canada to beat other medal contenders. Canada’s struggles are explicable, but that doesn’t make them less frustrating.
It was an unlucky draw to play Serbia in the first game of the Olympics, but that’s life. Canada wasn’t expected to beat Spain, so the only tangible disappointment of the tournament came in that 72-68 loss to Serbia. But such is the nature of international play that small moments can decide large events. Professional play has far more games and less weight attached to each of them.
Canada’s failure to qualify for the knockout rounds is certainly a frustrating result. It’s a result with plenty of precedent, as Canada’s women’s team has never won a medal in the Olympics, and the men haven’t won one for almost 100 years. At least the women actually attended this Olympics.
It may be a shadow of a silver lining, considering it’s all that’s been offered to international fans recently, but the future of the program is bright. Carleton is only 24 years old and was without a doubt Canada’s best player at Tokyo. Canada rostered a handful of players even younger than Carleton at Tokyo, meaning the squad will only be improving in the coming years. Medaling at Paris, 2024 remains a reasonable goal. That doesn’t lessen the sting of the results in these current Olympics.