Japan’s women’s 3×3 basketball team punched its ticket to a Summer Games that will be held on home soil with a dramatic 20-18 win over Spain in overtime of the third-place game at the FIBA 3×3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Graz, Austria, on Sunday.
Japan lost to France, the world’s top team, in the quarterfinals earlier in the day but secured a spot at the Tokyo Games by winning the bronze medal.
Mio Shinozaki made a game-tying layup with just over five seconds left in regulation to send the contest into overtime, where the first team to score two points would be declared the winner.
With Japan leading 19-18, Stephanie Mawuli drove in from the left and made a tough layup to end the hard-fought contest.
“I got goosebumps and can’t believe this. It’s surreal,” said Mawuli, who plays for the Toyota Antelopes in the Women’s Japan Basketball League. “There were moments that I thought we couldn’t do it. But we kept communicating with each other and wound up winning in the end. So I’m truly, truly happy and I can’t even put this feeling into words.”
Mawuli was named MVP of the qualifying tournament.
The United States and France won the gold and silver medals, respectively, to book spots in the Tokyo Games.
In the men’s competition, Poland, the Netherlands and Latvia finished in that order and are also headed to the Japanese capital.
The Japan women’s team, which is ranked No. 7 in the world, went 4-0 in the preliminary round. The squad consisted of Mawuli, Shinozaki, Mai Yamamoto and Risa Nishioka.
The sport will be making its debut at the Tokyo Games.
While Japan’s men’s and women’s national teams in the 5-on-5 game were given automatic berths to the Olympics as the host nation, the women’s 3×3 team had to earn its ticket through the qualifying tournament.
“Now all our teams in the four categories are able to participate in the Olympics,” Japan Basketball Association president Yuko Mitsuya said in a statement. “On behalf of Japanese basketball, we are very happy and very proud of them.”
The 3×3 competitions for men and women will each feature eight teams with games taking place at Aomi Urban Sports Park.
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