Olympics-Basketball 3x3-U.S. women, Latvia men grab first golds in Games debut

TOKYO (Reuters) -The first Olympic gold medallists in 3x3 basketball were crowned in Tokyo on Wednesday, with the United States victorious in the women’s division and Latvia taking the men’s top honours, both coming with wins over Russian teams.

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The U.S. team, stacked with WNBA talent, defeated the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) 18-15 at the Aomi Urban Sports Park in Tokyo. Stefanie Dolson of the Chicago Sky led in scoring with 7 points.

“Basketball runs deep in the USA and to pull this off and win gold is incredible,” Dolson said. “It just feels incredible. We achieved our goal.”

Capping a back-and-forth match, Karlis Lasmanis hit a two-point jumper to seal the men’s victory for Latvia over the ROC, 21-18.

The China women’s team prevailed over top-seeded France 16-14 to claim the bronze medal. Wang Lili was scintillating, delivering 9 points toward her team’s win.

The men's bronze went to Serbia after it dispatched Belgium 21-10. Serbia had been heavily favoured for gold, led by Dusan Domovic Bulut, the first real superstar here of the new sport.

“It’s a medal. We finished the tournament with a win,” Bulut said. “Better than losing in the final, no?”

The team sailed through the pool stage with a perfect record, but could not get into a groove in the semi-final against ROC and lost by a surprisingly large margin, 10-21.

The U.S. women had been seeded low, as the squad of WNBA players had no record together on the 3x3 circuit. But their pro talent showed through, dispatching every team in the pool round except Japan here.

From the start, Latvia was a favourite for a medal, with a team featuring some of the world’s top-ranked players. A lacklustre showing in the round-robin tournament cast doubt on their medal hopes, but the team gelled in the knockout stage.

Along with skateboarding, surfing, and sport climbing, 3x3 has been added to these Games in an effort to broaden the spectacle's youth appeal. French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. first lady Jill Biden cheeredhere their countrywomen on the first day of the tournament.

With its debut at the Summer Olympics, 3x3 looked to boost its global profile as a faster-paced, more compact alternative to traditional basketball, with hip-hop music played by DJs here throughout games to enhance the youth appeal.

Reporting by Rocky SwiftEditing by Bill Berkrot