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72 years after the sport of basketball was first showcased at the Summer Olympics, a women’s competition would finally take place on this day in 1976.
Angelė Rupšienė courtside. Photo courtesy of klaipedoskrepsinis.lt.
Angelė Rupšienė courtside. Photo courtesy of klaipedoskrepsinis.lt.

And, to the surprise of few European basketball experts, a Lithuanian woman would be rewarded with the inaugural Gold medal by the week’s end.

If Modestas Paulauskas was considered the king of Lithuania’s basketball movement under Soviet Occupation in the 1970s, then Angelė Rupšienė (nee Jankūnaitė) was without a doubt her state’s queen.

The 24-year-old entered her first Olympic tournament on this day 38 years ago having already won two FIBA Women’s World Championships (1971 & 1975) and two Women’s EuroBasket titles (1972 & 1976) with the USSR.

Before a large Montreal crowd the 168cm tall Lithuanian would score 11-points in her Olympic debut, a one sided (115:51) affair against the host nation Canada.

A crucial triumph over Czechoslovakia (88:75) would then be followed by a steady triumph over Bulgaria (91:68), one in which Rupšienė would score 5-points and record 6-assists.

Rupšienė and the Soviet team would play out one final match at the Centre Étienne Desmartea, a demolition of USA (112:77) inspired by Latvian Tamāra Dauniene, before concluding the tournament against Japan at the 19,000 seat Montreal Forum.

As this inaugural tournament was decided through the Round Robin system, and Rupšienė’s side was two games clear on top of the table, the USSR was guaranteed the Olympic title regardless of the final game’s result.

However it wasn’t over for the fiery Lithuanian who led the Soviets to their 5th consecutive win (98:75) recording 10-points and 6-turnovers before receiving her medal on the podium.

Angelė Rupšienė would conclude her successful summer by taking out the Lithuanian Athlete of the year award, the first female recipient of the prestigious accolade in 18 years (since Javelin thrower Birutė Kalėdienė in 1958).

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