‘Reaching Rio Olympics, D’Tigress’ mission’
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.