The women’s basketball team can win an Olympic spot next week
Their whole season comes down to this.
The women’s national team can qualify for the Rio 2016 basketball tournament by winning FIBA Americas, beginning this Sunday in Edmonton.
“This was our main goal for the whole summer and it’s what we’ve been working towards the whole time,” said Kia Nurse, who dropped 33 points on the United States to lead Canada to Pan Am gold.
RELATED: Canada wins Pan Am gold
It was an historic exclamation point on the season (Canada has never won Pan Ams). A wonderful memory. But FIBA Americas is the main course. The US won’t be there, as reigning world champions, they are already qualified.
“I would definitely say there’s a little bit more pressure just because you have to win this tournament,” said Nurse.
Canada will hold their roster constant from TO2015 entering the 10-team tournament. Split into two groups, Canada and Cuba are the top teams in Group A, while Argentina and Brazil highlight Group B. Canada beat all of them at Pan Ams.
Nurse and company open against Puerto Rico on Sunday.
“You just can’t look too far into the future because it’s a long tournament and you have to take care of business early on,” said head coach Lisa Thomaidis, who considers depth of scoring and ‘tenacious’ defence to be her team’s hallmarks.
It’s a long tournament, but a tight one.
Only the top two from each group advance to a semi. The Canadians can make life easy by winning their first three group games (Puerto Rico, Chile, Dominican Republic) before meeting the Cubans on Thursday, August 13.
Semifinals are on Saturday, the championship game is on Sunday.
And it’s a big tournament in Canada, again. The Toronto experience will surely help.
“For us to have the opportunity to play meaningful games on home soil again, we’re just absolutely pumped for that,” said Nurse.
There is one more shot beyond FIBA Americas to qualify for Rio, an Olympic qualifying tournament held next year. It’s how Team Canada found their way into London 2012, where they came eighth. The Canadian men have yet to play in their FIBA Americas which runs August 31 to September 12.
Watch Canada at FIBA Americas on TSN
Sun, Aug. 9 vs. Puerto Rico – 8 pm ET / 5 pm PT (TSN 1, 5)
Mon, Aug. 10 vs. Chile – 8:25 pm ET / 5:25 pm PT (TSN)
Tue, Aug. 11 vs. Dominican Republic – 8:25 pm ET / 5:25 pm PT (TSN)
Wed, Aug. 12 vs. Cuba- 8:30 pm ET / 5:30 pm PT (TSN 2)