Olympic 3x3 basketball preview: New hoop powerhouses to make history

2021-07-22 06:35:23 GMT2021-07-22 14:35:23(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

TOKYO, July 22 (Xinhua) -- As an exciting popular urban sport, 3x3 basketball will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo from July 24 to 28 in the Aomi Urban Sports Park. Featuring eight men's teams and eight women's teams, the tournament will witness the rising of new hoop powerhouses in the Olympic family.

The 3x3 basketball, originated from streetball, is considered to be the world No. 1 urban team sport, with more than 430,000 players from some 182 countries and regions participating in the world competitions, according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Played on half a regular five-a-side basketball court, the 3x3 features a fast pace, switches between offense and defense in a flash, and a highly entertaining atmosphere with DJs playing hip-hop music throughout the game.

In the men's category, Serbia is the title favorite. When most countries chose their 3x3 players from traditional five-a-side basketball teams, Serbia has built up a professional 3x3 training system, which brought them the FIBA 3x3 World Cup championship four times. Dusan Bulut, the Serbian team leader, is quite confident about their journey in Tokyo, saying that any result except the gold medal is a "failure."

With an average age of 24, the Chinese team with young guns is led by Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) star Hu Jinqiu. Hu has been tested in international competitions as a member of China's five-a-side basketball team, while Li Haonan and Yan Peng both shone in FIBA's 3x3 tournaments.

"We are a very cohesive team. Hopefully, we can showcase our style of play in the Olympics," Hu said.

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team is also strong, with four players who won the FIBA 3x3 U-23 World Cup.

The 2019 FIBA World Cup champion United States men's team failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after losing to the Netherlands.

At the 2021 FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament, the Netherlands, not a traditional strong hoops team, defeated the USA and France to advance to Tokyo, which won the country's first-ever participation in the Olympics for basketball.

A shorter game, faster pace and fiercer rivalry add more uncertainties to the result of the 3x3. The other four teams are Japan, Poland, Latvia and Belgium. Every team can grab chances to make their history within 10 minutes on the court.

Competition is expected to be more intense on the women's side as five nations claimed titles of the past six FIBA 3x3 World Cups and China won the latest one in 2019.

For Tokyo, Zhang Zhiting from the 2019 champion squad will round out the Chinese team together with Wang Lili, Yang Shuyu and Wan Jiyuan to contend for a medal.

Xu Jiamin, head coach of the team, told Xinhua that new strategies and tactics have been adopted for the new roster, and the players are in good conditions for the campaign. "3x3 is a game with many uncertainties. We must take every match seriously."

Team USA went undefeated at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) and won all games before the 10-minute limit. However, they have to play without Katie Lou Samuelson after she tested positive for COVID-19. Jackie Young will replace Samuelson and join up with Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray and Kelsey Plum in Tokyo.

With four of the top five players in the world, France is a strong opponent to the USA. The host Japan has been improving very fast and with the OQT's most valuable players (MVPs), excellent U23 players, they can be very promising in the tournament. The ROC, Romania, Mongolia and Italy are also well prepared to make history.

The FIBA formally adopted universal rules for 3x3 basketball in 2007 and has organized FIBA 3x3 World Cup and World Tour since 2012. The winner is the team with the highest score at the end of the 10-minute period, or the first team to reach 21 points. There is no break after a goal or foul, and the team on offense must take a shot within 12 seconds from possession of the ball. Enditem