‘Reach­ing Rio Olympics, D’Tigress’ mis­sion’

Daily Trust - - SPORT - By Mansur Abubakar, with agency re­port

D’Tigress for­wards Olayinka Sanni and He­len Ogun­jimi say it’s go­ing to be an up­hill task for Nige­ria to qual­ify for next year’s fe­male bas­ket­ball com­pe­ti­tion at the Rio Olympics but the team is de­ter­mined to scale through the qual­i­fi­ca­tion phase.

At­tempt to se­cure au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the 2016 Rio Olympics ended in quag­mire at the AfroBas­ket Women 2015 semi-fi­nals af­ter con­ced­ing a 71-70 de­feat to hosts Cameroon.

How­ever, the Nige­ri­ans’ Olympic dream re­mains very much alive ac­cord­ing to both Sanni and Ogun­jimi.

The pair played piv­otal roles in help­ing their team take the last step on the podium in Yaounde, thanks to a 6555 vic­tory over 2013 African cham­pi­ons An­gola in the third­place Game.

And, as re­sult, they earned the right to par­tic­i­pate in next year’s FIBA Women’s Olympic qual­i­fy­ing tour­na­ment tak­ing place from 13-19 June. The event will of­fer 12 teams a sec­ond chance to bat­tle for the five re­main­ing places avail­able for the Olympics.

Nige­ria as well as AfroBas­ket Women 2015’s run­ners-up Cameroon should rep­re­sent Africa in the WOQT, which also is set to in­clude France, Spain, Be­larus, Tur­key, Cuba, Ar­gentina, Venezuela, New Zealand, China and Korea.

As win­ners of AfroBas­ket Women 2015, Sene­gal clinched the only au­to­matic place avail­able for African teams for the Rio Games.

Nige­ria last played in the Olympics back in 2004, and not a sin­gle player in the team’s cur­rent squad has ex­pe­ri­enced the Olympics be­fore.

For Sanni, who av­er­aged 6.9 points per game in Cameroon, it is all about re­main­ing pos­i­tive.

“We just hope we can get there and some­how get to the Olympics. Our faith is still there,” she told FIBA.com.

“Our hope right now is that of a road to re­demp­tion, hope­fully that qual­i­fi­ca­tion gets us there. It doesn’t mat­ter how we get there as long as we do.”

For Ogun­jimi, who had the sec­ond high­est three-point shoot­ing per­cent­age (48.6 per­cent) at AfroBas­ket Women 2015, the Rio Games are not that far from the team’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

“I be­lieve it is pos­si­ble, we have to qual­ify for the Olympics,” she said. Ogun­jimi, who turns 31 later this month, feels that teams such as Be­larus, Spain and France are tough to beat.

Mean­while, D’Tigers for­ward and Most Valu­able Player at the 2015 Afrobas­ket Cham­pi­onship in Tu­nisia Cham­ber­lain Oguchi started the new sea­son with Pol­ish team An­wil Wlo­clawek on a fiery note. Oguchi dropped 25 points to help his team to a 92 89 win in overtime against Rosa Radom.

A Nige­rian player drives the ball while an Guinean op­po­nent moves for a block dur­ing the FIBA AfroBas­ket Women 2015 in Cameroon.

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