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Yi stresses need for China to play as a team
BEIJING (Rio 2016 Olympics) - Most basketball players are lucky if they get to play at one Olympics, but Yi Jianlian is not just any player. He is a national team star of China and has already featured at the Summer Games in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
In 2016, the 28-year-old will appear at a fourth Olympics, when they are staged in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Taking part in the most glamorous of sporting events, along with the top athletes from all over the world, never gets old for Yi. He wants to soak up the atmosphere,
China should cherish this opportunity. The Olympics is the world-class stage, also the best. To play with the best teams, it is always good to grow up. - Yi
Growing up is what China will have to do because they are going to show up in Brazil with some inexperienced players at the Olympic level. Among the first-timers is likely to be Yi's teammate at last year's FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, Zhou Qi. The 20-year-old youngster - who stands 2.17m tall and operates around the basket but isn't shy about taking mid-range jump shots - was like Yi an All-Star Five selection in Changsha.
Zhai Xiaochuan, a 2.08m forward whose presence grew in importance last year as the FIBA Asia Championship wore on, will make his Olympic bow as a 23-year-old.
Zhai Xiaochuan (CHN) blossomed at the FIBA Asia Championship
Yi, because of all his past experience at Olympic Games, will be able to impart his wisdom to the others. He is, in fact, already doing so.
When asked by FIBA.com about China's expected results, he answered: "It is too early to talk about that because the Olympic qualifiers [2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in Belgrade, Manila and Turin] have not started, which means there are two teams in group (Group A) that have yet to be decided. The team is still young, we don't need to think about the results and ranking too much."
And when the subject is facing Group A opponents USA on 6 August?
"That will be a great experience," Yi said. "I'm very much looking forward to it. The most important thing is to play like a team. I will try my best to help the team."
As he showed last summer, the 2.13m center continues to be China's main man. They will go to him early and often in Brazil.
As for the level of competition that awaits China in Rio, there is no danger of the Far East team looking past any opponent. Yi knows that only too well from four years ago when the Far East team suffered heavy defeats to all five of their Preliminary Round rivals.
"Every team in the Olympics is so strong that we just want to treat every game seriously, go game by game," he said. "We will try to get the best out of ourselves and improve."
China's primary aim is to solidify their standing as the top team in Asia again. In 2013, Yi and his teammates fell to Chinese Taipei in the Quarter-Finals of the FIBA Asia Championship and Iran won the title. The Iranians also reached the top of the podium in 2007 and 2009.
"It (2015) was a new start. We need to show more effort to keep the title. No matter where the event is, we have the confidence and determination to beat all the competitors. - Yi
There is also an important bit of business that China have yet to take care of. Gong Luming, the coach, is still talks on a new contract.
China, meanwhile, have released some information about their training camps, with players joining at three different junctures.
The first camp tips off on 5 April and the players involved will be Zhou Peng, Liu Xiaoyu, Sui Ran, Ding Yanyuhang, Tao Hanlin, Zhao Dapeng, Zhao Yanhao, Zhai Xiaochuan, Fang Shou, Li Muhao, Li Gen, Kelanbaike Makan, Zou Yuchen and Chan Lin.
Guo, Li Xiaoxu, Jia Cheng and Wang Ruheng will then join on 10 April. It is still to be determined when Yi, Wang Zhelin, He Tianju, Zhou Qi and Zhao Jiwei will join the training. Each is currently in the United States having workouts.