13 - 19
August 2023
13 Khulan Onolbaatar (MGL)
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Inspired by Curry, Khulan hopes to help pave the way for women's basketball in Mongolia

BANGKOK (Thailand) - History was already made for Mongolia on the first day of the FIBA Women's Asia Cup 2023 Division when they took the court against Iran. Unfortunately, it didn't come with a historic win.

"We're trying to be a good role model for [the younger girls], and hopefully pave the way."


For that, Mongolia had to wait a few more days.

Finally, on August 17, Mongolia did it. The final score at the end of their game against Sri Lanka read 80-41 to their advantage.


"It's really special for us because it's the first senior women's FIBA competition [for Mongolia]," said Khulan Onolbaatar. "Then to be able to be a part of this huge thing, representing my country, Mongolia, is a big deal for us and I'm just happy to be here."

Khulan is not the only one pleased about her and Mongolia's appearance in the Bangkok tournament as her family is undoubtedly just as ecstatic and proud.

"They know how much it means to me," she said. "They know how much I love the game of basketball, so I'm so grateful that they are behind my back and push me."

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In particular, her big brother Enkhbaatar might be the proudest of her supporters. After all, the men's national team standout from their own recent debut in the FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Pre-Qualifiers is the reason why Khulan got into basketball in the first place - even if he and the family might not have seen eye-to-eye with the decision early on.

"My story is that my brother, he also plays on the national team, so as I grew up watching my brother a lot and that made me fall in love with basketball," she said.

"He didn't really bring me along to his games, but I just watched him on TV," said Khulan. "Then, at first, he didn't like me playing basketball because basketball is only now growing in Mongolia, but 5-6 years ago, basketball wasn't a thing, no one could see you being a professional player. My family was actually against it."

"Now, They are the reason that I'm able to be here and they're always supporting me now."

As Khulan dived deeper into her passion for basketball, she found more inspiration in none other than Steph Curry.

"I want to play basketball like him," says the forward.

This might be in contrast with how everyone has seen her play in the Women's Asia Cup Division B as Khulan fits in the role of an athletic forward. She is currently among the top 10 rebounders in the competition with 7.3 per game.

However, she was quick to clarify what she meant in terms of wanting to play basketball like Curry.

"I don't mean play the same style [as Curry] but playing happy basketball."

"I like to watch his social media and other stuff and see how happy he plays the game, how contagious his spirit is, it just makes me happy just to play basketball."

And you can feel that sort of impact Khulan has within the team. Even when they are down and losing in a game, Mongolia rarely plays without passion. Each of the players are full of emotion, all the way up and down the roster from the senior players like Bolor Erdene Baatar to the 16-year-old youngsters Bolor Erdene Battsooj and Nyamjav Nandinkhusel.

That's because they know well that they are the trailblazers with many young eyes watching and looking to emulate what they do on the court back at home. Khulan grew up with male figures like her brother and Steph Curry as basketball role models, but she wants to be able to be a female role model for younger girls to look up to - something she didn't have as much in her youth.

"It's a special feeling on one hand [to be a role model] but on the other hand it's a responsibility too," she said. "Basketball is becoming a big thing in Mongolia so a lot of the girls, the younger generation girls, are looking up to us to pave the way for them. We're trying to be a good role model for them, and hopefully pave the way."

"There's a saying in Mongolia that if the beginning is good then it's going to be even better. Hopefully, it is a good start here."

It might not have been picture-perfect for Mongolia, but to come into your first-ever senior women's national team competition and collect a win to bring back home seems like a decent way to get things going.