Women’s basketball team receives approval regardless of loss
Published: Aug 04, 2021 09:48 PM
Chinese player Shao Ting drives in for a layup against Serbia at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese player Shao Ting drives in for a layup against Serbia at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday. Photo: Xinhua

70-77. The Chinese women's basketball team, led by head coach Xu Limin, ended their 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games journey on Wednesday after a bitter loss in a quarterfinal match with Serbia. However, the young roster with an average age of only 25, have fully displayed their perseverance and talents on the court, winning applauds and love from sports fans across the country.

It was the first defeat the young team experienced in Tokyo after they had previously overcome challenges posed by world powerhouses including the national teams of Australia and Belgium in the group face-offs. Yet the loss to Serbia on cost them the chance of going for a medal in Tokyo.  

"The cruelty of competition is real," a Chinese women's basketball insider who requested ­anonymity, told the Global Times on Wednesday. "But I believe there is a bright future for this young team."

Xu, who injured his foot and ruptured his Achilles tendon in April during training, told media there were "no regrets" in their ­Tokyo Olympic Games journey. "Today's match has proven that we have the potential to take on the European Champions [Serbia]," Xu said.

"Today's match has proven that we have the potential to take on the European Champion [Serbia]. And I have confidence that this Chinese women's basketball team can reach Olympic medal podium in the future," Xu said.

The young Chinese athletes had 23 turnovers during their competition against the Serbians, with an average age of 30. Serbia, bronze medalists at Rio 2016 and winners of the 2021 European Championship, had only 13 turnovers while grabbing 16 offensive rebounds. "We were at disadvantage in terms of physical contacts, and Serbia's team were more in control when the game came to the crunch," the Chinese head coach summarized by saying.

The Chinese girls spared nothing on the court and put up a spirited fight against the strong Serbian team. 

Serbia held a 35-33 lead at the half, but China looked like a different - and quite refreshed - team after the break, outscoring Serbia 25-14 to take a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter, before they encountered a frustrating 0-11 run at the beginning of the fourth quarter. 

The two quarterfinal teams had six lead changes and tied 14 times in the 40-minute knockout game, per official site of FIBA Olympic basketball. 

As the only Chinese ­national team in the Olympic soccer, basketball, volleyball events (commonly referred as the three major ball sports among Chinese fans), the women's basketball team has won much love and applause across the country.

China's state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) not only aired the game on the CCTV-5 sports channel but also played the movie Women Generals of the Yang Family, a story that is based on Chinese folklore to hail the heroic women military leaders in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) during the game to show support for the modern women heroes.

Thanks to the Olympic journey, Chinese basketball fans are getting familiar and paying more attention to women's basketball, being able to name every player on the roster and even giving them nicknames such as "Li Meng - the female LeBron" after NBA superstar LeBron James.

Some fans also cast their hopes to even younger basketballers who are not on the current national team roster, such as fans' favorite secret weapon Liu Yutong from Beijing Normal University. Liu, 20, has the potential to be as dominant as NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal with her super buff physicality - 2 meters tall and weighing 110 kilograms.