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China ends 12-year wait to become women's basketball Asia Cup champions

By Wu Jie and Lou Kang| Global Times| Updated: July 4, 2023 L M S


Players of Team China celebrate their victory after winning the Women' Asia Cup basketball final in Sydney, Australia, on July 2, 2023. Photo: VCG

China lifted its first Women's Basketball Asia Cup since 2011 after fighting back to earn an epic 73-71 victory over arch-rivals Japan on Sunday, ending the five-time reigning champions' stranglehold on the Asian title.

Trailing nine points at halftime, it looked like China would submit for a third consecutive time in a title game.

Spearheaded by MVP of the tournament, center Han Xu, China turned the tables in the third quarter and took what proved a match-winning lead late in the game to end their 12-year wait to be crowned Asian champions.  

Dominant throughout the whole tournament, Han finished with a match-deciding 26 points and 10 ­rebounds to complete the feat of bagging a double-double in every single game of the tournament. WNBA player Li Meng hit two match-winning free throws to finish with 17 points and six assists. Wang Siyu contributed 17 points.

"We reaped what we sowed," Li posted on Sina Weibo after the final. 

"It was all worth it! Thank you to the Chinese Basketball Association, the coaching team and my teammates! We couldn't have reached where we are today without your hard work. The Chinese women's basketball team has a long way to go, and will meet more challenges. We will stay firm in our belief, aim at new heights and fight to the end," said Li, who was named All-Star Five of the tournament along with Han. 

Han also thanked her teammates, coaches and rest of the staff for their effort, saying that the team may not be perfect but will do its best. 

"I'm never the perfect one but I never give up in my pursuit to be perfect. I want to thank all the supporters who bestowed me with courage and strength," Han posted on Sina Weibo.

Head Coach Zheng Wei appreciated the team's resilience against the odds. 

"We're getting better and we've developed stronger team chemistry. We did well in the rebound. We never wavered in our resolve when facing difficulty," said Zheng. 

Celebrating the national anthem

As China's national anthem "March of the Volunteers" echoing within the Olympic Park Sports Centre in Sydney, the championship moment was hailed and celebrated on China's social media platforms.

"They [China Women's Basketball Team] are never a disappointment to their fans. They proved their trustworthiness to us all and the girls are definitely rising," a netizen named Zhang Ye commented on China's Sina Weibo.

The hashtag "China wins FIBA Women's Asia Cup title" instantly topped Sina Weibo's trending list, earning nearly 300 million views in a very short time. Many comments wished captain Yang ­Liwei, who suffered a knee injury late in the semifinal against Australia, a quick recovery.

"Another Asian Champion after 12 years. Please have faith in China Women's Basketball and have faith in us as a team!" Zhang Ru, a Chinese women's basketball player, thanked all of fans' support right after the win.

Asian Games in sight

All eyes will be turned to the upcoming Hangzhou Asian Games to see if China can continue its momentum and defend the Asian Games title. 

The Sunday event also served to confirm the Asian entrants for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in 2024, with China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand all securing berths to stay on the road to the 2024 Paris Olympics. 

Luo Le, a Beijing-based sports commentator, told the Global Times on Sunday that this win "definitely boosts confidence for the team in competing at the upcoming Hangzhou Asian Games."

The team carried out rigorous preparations at a training camp to get ready for the Asian Games and "as this win sits at a critical time right before the Games, it is not only a reassurance for the team themselves, but will also bring more public attention to the team," said Luo.

Luo also said he believes the championship can serve as a social prompter. 

"In the past, there have been advocates asking for more attention to be paid to the female teams, not only in basketball, but also volleyball and soccer where excellent achievements have been made. Now, with wider public attention toward the female team, it will no doubt boost the social influence of the group, which is progress for us all," Luo explained. 

Yet Su Qun, one of the best-known basketball commentators in China, told the Global Times on Sunday that Chinese women's basketball team's win showed their "normal and stable performance while the overall world's basketball performance is declining."

"In the past, due to physical limitations, the China women's basketball team had a difficult time achieving better results. In addition to the fact that the Japanese team has dominated Asian basketball for nearly 10 years, this victory untied a knot in the team's heart," Su noted.

Su said that after a shortage of talents lasting years, China can aim to ­compete on a higher level on the world stage.

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