Female hoopsters leaving nothing to chance in Tokyo qualification bid

With their male counterparts almost certainly set to miss out on the 2020 Olympics, China’s women’s basketball team are determined to avoid another embarrassment for the nation by going all out to seal their spot at the Games.

As the country begins to wind down for Spring Festival, the team showed no signs of letting intensity levels slip during a Wednesday training session in preparation for next month’s Olympic qualifying tournament.

China will take on Spain, Britain and South Korea during the four-day tournament, which tips off on Feb 6 in Foshan, Guangdong province, with three Olympic tickets up for grabs.

This year’s Olympics will features 12 teams, with 10 entries, barring the host and reigning women’s World Cup champion the United States, decided by four qualifying events around the world next month.

And after watching China’s men lose Asia’s only direct Tokyo berth to Iran last year, the women’s team is acutely aware of how much is at stake for basketball’s profile in the country, where sporting officialdom remains obsessed with Olympic success.

“The pressure is now on our shoulders and we can literally feel the weight of it,” team captain Shao Ting said after Wednesday’s workout.

“Actually it helps us lock in and stay focused on the mission. By studying our opponents and positioning ourselves we are confident we can make it to Tokyo,” said Shao, a prolific forward who played with the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA regular season just passed.

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