GAMES RETURN: Opal Penny Taylor.
GAMES RETURN: Opal Penny Taylor. Mark Nolan

Opals out to end hoodoo

YOU can understand the Australian women's basketball team getting sick of the sight of bronze and silver ... and the United States.

The Opals have stood on the podium at the past five Olympics but never at the top, that position always taken by the Americans.

The Aussie girls won bronze in Atlanta 1996, three successive silvers in Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, and then another bronze in London 2012.

Each time their bid to claim that elusive gold has ended at the hands of the US, either in the semi-finals or finals.

In Rio, the Opals have both the US and gold well and truly in their sights.

After missing London 2012 with a knee injury, two-time silver medallist Penny Taylor returns to help lead the team alongside Laura Hodges, Liz Cambage, Rachel Jarry and Erin Phillips.

"Gold is always the goal at an Olympic Games but we know there is a long way to getting the chance to play for that gold medal,” Taylor said.

"We have a strong team and a very similar team to what we had at the 2014 world championships (when they won bronze), and I think (coach) Brendan (Joyce) has done a wonderful job implementing a system that we love being a part of.

"We play Brazil first up and playing the home side in the first game is always going to be a huge challenge in itself.”

As well as being a seven-time Olympic gold medallist, the US is nine-time world champion, having not been beaten at a major tournament since being upset by Russia at the 2006 world titles.

Taylor, who plays in enemy territory with the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA, said: "They are the defending gold medallists and are the pinnacle of our sport. They're always who we see as our biggest competitor and we just want to give ourselves another chance to get in a position to be able to face them.”

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