China men’s basketball team prepares for Olympic qualifiers

Society & Culture

Six teams, one spot. China's men's basketball team prepares to face Canada and Greece this week in the final phase of qualifiers for the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

China men's basketball arrives in Canada before 2021 Olympics qualifiers
From the men's basketball Sina Weibo account

China’s men’s basketball team arrived in western Canada on Friday ahead of a tricky Olympic qualifying tournament. The team is usually a lock for the Olympics — it’s appeared in nine straight — but the Asian berth that it usually takes is going to host nation Japan this summer.

In Group A, China will need at least one victory against host Canada or Greece to advance to a four-team single-elimination tournament. Possible opponents in that mini-bracket include Turkey, the Czech Republic, and Uruguay.

The tournament starts Tuesday, with China playing the next day against Canada, and then the day after against Greece.

Canada will be able to call on a group of NBA players — including No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins — alongside a number of solid Europe-based talents. Fujian Sturgeons forward Andrew Nicholson will be a familiar face to CBA watchers. It will be coached by Nick Nurse, who led the Toronto Raptors to an NBA title in 2019.

Greece, the sixth-ranked team in the world, boasts a team of Eurobasket quality, but it will be missing former NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his older brother Thanasis, who are in the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals. A third Antetokounmpo, Kostas, who plays on the Lakers’ G League team, will be at the tournament.

Only one of the six teams will advance. It’s a tall task, but China has had more time together as a team than the rest of the field. The team will be missing Yì Jiànlián 易建联 due to injury, but will be led by Wú Qián 吴前, who won the CBA MVP this past season while leading the Zhejiang Golden Bulls to a 41-11 record and third-place finish in the regular season.


Sun Yang banned for four years, bringing an end to a long saga

China’s three-time Olympic gold medalist and swimming icon, Sūn Yáng 孙杨, had his eight-year ban reduced to four years on Tuesday by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The ruling means that Sun will miss the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and the next two Swimming World Championships before being cleared for the next summer Olympics in Paris in 2024.

The revised four-year ban includes an additional three months from an earlier doping suspension in 2014. However, the ban includes the time from February 2020, when the initial suspension came into force.

Sun, 29, will be 32 when his ban lifts in May 2024. For context, the oldest swimmer to ever win a gold medal at the Olympics is Anthony Erving, who at age 35 won gold in the 50-meter freestyle in Rio 2016.

CAS initially banned Sun for eight years in February 2020 after the swimmer was found guilty of breaking anti-doping protocol. The court found Sun guilty of destroying out-of-competition test samples, which Sun had argued were collected by someone without proper certification.

A retrial came after Sun lawyers successfully argued to the Swiss Federal Court that historic racist comments made by the chairman of the original three-member panel had prejudiced the initial judgment.

Despite the reduction in the ban, the new CAS panel ruled that Sun was guilty of
evading, refusing or failing to submit to sample collection by an athlete” and “tampering or alleged tampering with any part of doping control by an athlete or other person.”


Other Stories:

Li Ying becomes China’s first high-profile sports star to come out (SupChina)

Nike boss defends business in China (BBC)

A Bad Hockey Team Complicates China’s Rise to Superpower Status (Bloomberg)

China gets to grip with pro wrestling (France24)

Wales Euro 2020 star Moore almost became a naturalized China player (The Times)

The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.