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It's all systems 'Guo' for China
BEIJING (2016 Rio Olympics) - China were worthy winners of last year's FIBA Asia Championship. The squad overcame a very tricky encounter against Korea early on and marched to the title on home soil, a feat that punched the Far East team's ticket to the Rio de Janeiro Games.
By reaching the top of the podium, the Chinese maintained their hugely impressive streak of appearances at the Olympics, a run that started with the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Guo Ailun was not around in those days. A national team point guard the past four years, Guo was only born in 1993.
He did his part in making sure that China continue to feature at the Summer Games, though. The 1.92m playmaker averaged 10.9 points, 4 assists and 1.3 steals per game and made the All-Star Five at the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship.
Memories of last year's performance are good ones. Guo says the fans saw a very good Chinese effort. But did the team's performance signal the start of a new era? Will 2015 be viewed as the year that was a launchpad for greater things?
"It is an exaggeration to say that," Guo said to FIBA.com. "But China did play passionately. We played together like fighters. The fighting spirit is always needed."
China will need plenty of fight and Guo must be at his best if the team is to advance from the Group Phase this summer. That was not the case in 2012 in London, when Guo made his Olympic bow. China lost all of their games by big margins.
China will play in Group A with Australia, the United States, Venezuela and two of the countries that win FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments. The team was the best in Asia, but it has to prove against opposition from other continents that it can be competitive. Guo thinks it's going to be tough.
"We are not strong enough around the world," he said to FIBA.com.
It is very important that we know where we are and to face that situation. But I hope the Chinese team can play with hope and passion, and as a team. - Guo
A player with Liaoning Flying Leopards, the side that finished runner-up to Sichuan in the Chinese CBA this season, Guo knows that the competition in Rio de Janeiro is going to be at a different level.
Guo Ailun (CHN) shone at the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship
The USA are the two-time defending champions of both the Olympics and the FIBA Basketball World Cup, while Venezuela captured the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship and Australia the 2015 FIBA Oceania Championship. Every guard that Guo will go up against will be good, if not great. If the results do not go China's way, there can still be much to take from the experience.
Personally, it will be a great opportunity to learn from top teams and players, if I can stand on the court in Rio. - Guo
Most teams look forward to clashes with the USA with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. They know the Americans usually demolish teams. Guo tries to maintain an even keel when it comes to thinking about the Mike Krzyzewski-coached side, which China will face on the opening day of the men's tournament on 6 August.
"It will be just a game," he said. "I'm a player and will just play game by game."