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Yao emphasizes the need for results at men's OQT and preparation for women's national team
BEIJING (China) - The proud men's national team of China has not missed out on playing in the Summer Olympics since 1980, with nine consecutive appearances so far.
In China's path towards a tenth straight trip to the Olympics, they will have to go through the tough task of getting their ticket via the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments..
"The Olympic Qualifying Tournament is an event that we must play well because this is an opportunity to qualify the 2020 Olympics," said Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) chairman Yao Ming in an interview with CCTV. "To be realistic, we are lagging behind the top teams around the world, but we hope to show everyone our expectations for the future."
China were drawn to play in Victoria, Canada, for the OQTs along with Canada, Greece, Czech Republic, Turkey, and Uruguay. They will be playing against Canada and Greece in Group A for a spot to the Semi-Finals. The winner of the tournament qualifies to play in Tokyo for the upcoming Olympics.
The odds are stacked against China, the 28th ranked team in the world, according to the FIBA World Ranking for Men, presented by Nike. In Victoria, they will be going up against 7th-ranked Greece and 21st-ranked Canada in Group A. If they advance to the Semi-Finals, they might have to face against the 9th-ranked Czech Republic or 15th-ranked Turkey.
China's women's national team, however, has already qualified for the Summer Olympics after securing their ticket from the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade. They had to adjust after a change from the previous schedule that had them playing at home in Guangdong, but was able to top Group B in the Serbian capital with three straight wins nonetheless.
"It was great luck in misfortune," Yao admitted. "First of all, because of the epidemic situation, we lost our home-court advantage. I felt very sorry because the city of Foshan in Guangdong made a lot of preparations for all participating teams. I hoped that all teams, especially the Chinese women's basketball team, can achieve good results."
"However, due to unpredictable circumstances, in less than one month before the game, we were informed that we must go to Serbia for the competition. In the end, the result was very pleasing because we obtained the Olympic qualification. The success is accumulated from all the daily hard work."
Yao and the CBA will have to do their best to prepare their squad for the obstacles ahead, whether it is the OQT for the men's or the Olympics for the women's.
"We have prepared a list of nearly 30 players for both men's and women's teams, and the final 12 people will be generated from this list," said Yao. "This includes the best players in the men's and women's basketball leagues, including Yi Jianlian. Of course, there will be some new rising stars. A lot can happen in a year. Just like Zhou Peng, who was injured three days before the World Cup or Zhao Jiwei, who was injured a week before the Asian Games. We are looking for more talented players to make us more resistant to risks."
However, considering the current COVID-19 situation, the preparations for both teams are limited.
"There is no such plan for [training] because we are in the stage of epidemic prevention, including some risks on the road," Yao said. "We will assemble the teams for training in the shorter term."
"According to the FIBA calendar, there will be an [FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers] window period in November. We will assemble the team at that time and make sure that they are ready for that."
For the women's team, it might be a bit more complicated, but Yao and the CBA have faith in the effort they will put in to get ready.
"Due to the international travel ban, playing against high-level foreign teams is almost impossible," Yao said. "We are also planning ahead for how the Women's China Basketball Association (WCBA) will be launched within the year, which includes organizing small-scale training events with different clubs. We also see that everything is back to normal in China. We are very confident that we will get more and more opportunities later for the preparation and development of women's basketball."