After defeating Great Britain and Spain in the qualification tournament, the Chinese women’s basketball team succeeded in its quest for an Olympic berth in 2020. The 1992 runners-up will appear in the Olympics for the ninth time since 1984. This is also the fifth consecutive time that China has reached the final stage of the Olympics, dating back to 2004.
China secured an 86-76 victory over Great Britain last Thursday and defeated the Spaniards with a final score of 64-62. China concluded its tournament with a 100-60 win against South Korea. Shooting guard Li Meng was named the most valuable player in the tournament averaging 14.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.
The Group B qualifier was scheduled to play in Foshan, China, but was moved to Belgrade due to the coronavirus outbreak. Together with China, Spain and South Korea also qualified for the Olympics through the tournament.
The team’s victory has become a trending issue in China while the country goes through serious hardship combating the coronavirus. Chinese state media Beijing Daily praised the Chinese women’s team for encouraging everyone in the country in fighting the coronavirus. The victory also draws direct contrast between the women’s basketball team and the men’s team. Different from the women’s team, China’s men’s basketball program suffered from major defeats in 2019, and lost its opportunity to qualify directly for the Olympics to Iran in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
Chinese media also paid attention to the massive income gap between men and women basketball players in the country. As Sina Sports pointed out from its report, the entire Chinese women’s basketball team earns less than 5 million yuan ($716,661) a year, way lower than the top players in China’s professional basketball league, the CBA.
Despite appearing in the Olympics frequently, the Chinese women’s team have yet to reach the semi-finals since 2008 in Beijing. The Chinese finished 6th in 2012 and 10th in 2016.