February 12, 2024
How the Paris Olympics field was finalized over the weekend
Germany will join group of 11 returnees from Tokyo Games
The 12-team draw for the 2024 Paris Olympics is now determined, and it looks exceptionally similar to the field that played in Tokyo three years ago — albeit this time there will actually be spectators to see them. Eleven of the 12 teams are returning, with Germany replacing South Korea as the only debutant. The Germans locked up their first bid in national team history with a 73-71 win over Brazil on Sunday, capping off four days of qualifying tournaments played in four cities on three continents.
Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Serbia, Spain and the U.S. will descend on the French capital in July. For 11 of these teams, the goal is to keep the U.S. from winning an eighth-consecutive gold medal.
In addition, 10 of the dozen teams that participated in the 2022 World Cup in Sydney are back in action. Spain and Germany will replace Bosnia-Herzegovina and South Korea.
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Antwerp qualifying tournament
Team USA didn’t need to win its games in Antwerp, Belgium, having punched an Olympic ticket with its World Cup victory. Yet the experience of running neck-and-neck with the Belgians for 40 minutes, with an exclamation-point basket from Breanna Stewart at the buzzer to win 81-79, served as pivotal along this journey. Dominating wins over Nigeria (100-46) and Senegal (101-39) ensued. Nigeria came from behind to overpower Senegal and clinch the African representation in the Games with a win on Friday.
Emma Meesseman of Belgium was named MVP of the region, averaging more than 17 points and seven rebounds per game. While Yacine Diop of Senegal was the overall leader with 19.7 points per game, Rhyne Howard and Napheesa Collier were the top U.S. scorers, both posting more than 19 per game. Howard scored 25 in 15 minutes over Senegal.
“If you look at the big picture,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said in the postgame press conference, “you have your vets, then you have your young players who come in, like Aliyah [Boston] and Rhyne, that could be their situation when they are on the team. They may not see steady, consistent minutes, and Rhyne did that for us. I thought Aliyah gained confidence in the three games.”
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Belem qualifying tournament
With all of its sporting pedigree, it may be surprising that Germany has never qualified for an Olympics before. It helps that the Sabally sisters (Satou, 25, and Nyara, 23) both averaged double figures in scoring. Germany could be the European team of the future. Ezi Magbegor of Australia was the regional MVP, shooting more than 63% from the field. Plus, Serbia’s Yvonne Anderson was the leading scorer with 19.3 points per game.
While Diana Taurasi is 10 years older than the next player on the U.S. roster (Alyssa Thomas), she wasn’t the oldest across the competition this week. Lauren Jackson and Erika de Souza were both playing in Belem, Brazil, but will not be playing in Paris. The Australian Hall of Famer Jackson told Brazilian journalist Paulino Lamenha that she will decline a roster spot. de Souza, who turns 42 next month and played in the 2004, 2012 and 2016 Games, likely missed her final chance to compete with Brazil’s loss to Germany.
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X’ian qualifying tournament
France didn’t need to win its games this weekend, being the host in July. Still, Les Bleus managed to look impressive in commanding wins over New Zealand (94-39) and Puerto Rico (88-40). Gabby Williams broke out as the tournament MVP. Although host China dominated in its two wins, it fell to France 82-50. Puerto Rico is returning by virtue of a 69-67 win over New Zealand.
“For us, a small island, only 3 million people, this is a big win for us,” Puerto Rico coach Gerardo Batista said in the postgame press conference. “We know that we are far from the kind of teams like China and France. But we are trying to get better.”
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Sopron qualifying tournament
The tightest of the tournaments was in Sopron, Hungary, where all four teams entered Sunday with 1-1 records. Japan, with regional MVP Mai Yamamoto, defeated Canada 86-82, and Spain squeaked past Hungary 73-72. Since Canada beat Hungary in its opening game, it has qualified for Paris. On the other hand, Hungary has not met the Olympic hardwood since the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games and came within one point of returning.
“We are so proud of this team,” Spain forward Alba Torrens said in the press conference after the win over Hungary. “Sometimes success is to stand up again after you fail, and this team did it. What I am very proud of is that we kept together in the whole tournament. I think this is one of the main strengths of this team. The soul of this team came up again.”
Final rosters will be announced in the coming months. The women’s five-on-five competition will begin Sunday, July 28, in Lille, France.
Written by Scott Mammoser
Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 90 countries.