13 Rui Machida (JPN)
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Rui Machida: From third-string point guard to Olympic record-breaker

TOKYO (Japan) - The spotlight was shining brightly on Japan throughout the Olympics as hosts of the competition. The women’s basketball team were able to take advantage of that attention and shined even brighter as they made a historic run to the gold medal game.

At center stage was of it all was Rui Machida, the record-breaking dime dropper.

The quick 28-year-old guard has been one of the best point guards in Asia for a while. Now, after her outstanding Olympics run, Machida might just have elevated her status to possibly be one of the best point guards in the world.

"I was surprised that [the fans] said 'I was impressive' and 'basketball is interesting'. That was also my goal, so I'm glad that they thought so."


Being an athlete runs in the Machida family, where Rui is the youngest of three siblings.

Her mother, Rumi, played volleyball and is Rui’s biggest fan.

Her brother played baseball and was a big influence to Rui’s love for sports when she was younger. Her sister, on the other hand, followed Rumi and was an experienced volleyball player.

However, it was her father, Shigenori, who had the most impact on her basketball career. Shigenori Machida was also a passionate basketball player. However, because of his size, he couldn't even imagine the thought of playing in the Olympics.

So when young Rui told her father that she was interested in playing basketball, he quickly whisked her off to buy all that she needed to start playing.

That was how it began.

And it didn’t take long for Rui to get the ball rolling.

The majority of fans watching the Olympics were in awe as Machida made assist after assist, but for those who have been die-hard fans, it wasn’t something that they’d never seen before.

Back at the FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup 2011, Machida was the only player to drop more than 10 assists in a game, accomplishing the feat twice (!!!) to end up as the tournament’s leader in assists. She was the youngest player on the team in her first national team appearance at that event, but it didn’t stop her from immediately commanding attention.

"It was my first experience with the national team and I learned many things - I really enjoyed myself,” Machida said. "You have a chance to play against players who are from all over the world, so you should have fun!"

Machida was certainly a rising star, but at that point she was still unproven at the senior level. There were flashes of brilliance, but it wasn’t her time just yet. But she was determined to get there.

"I would really like to play for the Japanese senior team. That would be a great honor," - she said back then in 2011. 

In 2015, Machida got her first shot at the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup.

She was once again one of the youngest players on the team and played a back-up role to the legendary Asami Yoshida. Even then, it didn’t stop her from making an instant impact.

In just her second game ever playing in a Women’s Asia Cup, Machida dropped 16 assists against India - marking one the most amount of assists made in a game in the recent decade of the Women’s Asia Cup.

Even in the early stages of her national team career, Rui was already breaking records and making history.

But she waited for her turn.

Machida made her Olympics debut in Rio 2016 but with Yoshida leading the tournament in assists (8.7 per game), she was still playing as a back-up point guard for Japan.

As Yoshida began transitioning to a lesser role for Women’s Asia Cup 2017, it was All-Star Five member Manami Fujioka who absorbed the large share of minutes on the court as lead guard.

At the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2018, Machida saw her minutes dwindle to less than 7 minutes per game as a third-string guard. Yoshida had retired, but Fujioka was on the rise as well as Nako Motohashi.

When Fujioka wasn’t available for the Women’s Asia Cup in 2019, Motohashi stepped up to win the MVP award while Machida once again played a supporting role.

Through all of these competitions dating back to 2015, Machida played 28 games and recorded 114 assists per game, good for just over 4 per contest.

After learning from one of the best in Yoshida and growing alongside fellow star guards in Motohashi and Fujioka, she was finally set loose for the Tokyo Olympics.

Now it was her turn.

Japan’s first game at the Olympics was a tough one, but riding the wave of 11 assists by Machida, they were able to upset France. It was a win that started generating buzz not only because of how big of an upset it was, but also because of the number of assists Machida had made.

“Could the Olympics game-high record for assists be broken?”

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Machida wasn’t even the favorite on her own team heading into the tournament to break the record, yet here she was dropping double-digit dimes in the very first game. After a second straight game of notching 11 assists in a loss to USA, she finally made history by tying the record of 15 assists in a single game against Nigeria.

"For her to tie the record is amazing because there have been so many great Olympic players over the years. I am really happy she is getting noticed with this - it's fantastic," said Japan head coach Tom Hovasse.

Hovasse also expressed that he was sorry for not leaving Machida on the floor longer so that she could have a shot at breaking the record. It turns out he wouldn’t have to feel bad for too long.

Machida dished out 14 assists in the next game against Belgium and advanced to the Semi-Finals for a rematch against France. She now had 4 straight games with double-digit assists and was now about to go up against a strong opponent hungry for revenge.

Surely this Cinderella run was bound to end at some point right?

Not just yet.

Not only did Japan beat France in convincing fashion, Machida also smashed the Olympics game-high record for assists - the same one she had just tied a few days earlier - with 18 delicious dimes. It was a memorable day for Japan basketball, with their star guard making Olympics history while the women’s basketball team clinched their first Olympics medal at the very least.

Machida waited and when it was finally her turn, she made it count.

"Rui has been with the national team for a long time as a back-up player. She has always been one of the most incredible passers and she really knows how to get ball to other players, " said Hovasse.

If you ask Machida, she’ll tell you it’s not all about her.

"I wasn't even aware of the number of assists I had when I was playing. I was not thinking about it and the other players around me were just running so well and scoring all those shots, so they were the ones that contributed (to the record)," she had said after the record-tying performance against Nigeria.

Now that she’s an Olympic record holder and medalist, her focus is to make one more grand assist - making basketball even more popular in Japan.

Machida had previously mentioned that men’s basketball is already popular, but women’s basketball isn’t unless they get results. So with this win and the attention that the sport is getting, she hopes to have displayed the charm and fun of basketball to the fans.

"I was surprised that the number of followers on Twitter and Instagram had increased significantly, " said Machida, as per the Olympics website. "But I was surprised that they said ‘I was impressive’ and ‘Basketball is interesting’. That was also my goal, so I'm glad that they thought so.”