Since the last basketball Olympic medal at Barcelona 1992, it's been 29 years that China grasps another precious bronze medal, this time in women's 3x3 basketball at Tokyo 2020.
By Sportswriters Shan Lei, Mao Pengfei, Ma Kai
TOKYO, July 29 (Xinhua) -- For Chinese basketball, the women's 3x3 bronze medal of the Tokyo Olympic Games are as glorious as an Olympic gold medal.
China has been waiting for 29 years to win a basketball medal at the Olympics since legendary center Zheng Haixia led the women's national team to win a silver at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
On Wednesday night, China's 3x3 team edged France 16-14 in the bronze medal match where pivot Wang Lili scored nine points for the victory.
Although China won the championship at the 2019 3x3 women's World Cup in the Netherlands, it was still one of the hardest targets for China, which has already won 27 medals including 12 golds in Tokyo, to have a podium finish in basketball.
The men's 3x3 national team finished eighth, and the men's 5x5 team has not qualified for the Olympics for the first time since the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Meanwhile, the women's 5x5 team won its first match and is fighting for a berth in the quarterfinals.
All the burden was on the women's 3x3 as the whole country is seeking for revamping the glory of Chinese basketball when the women's team won two silver medals during the span of 1992-1994, one from the Olympics and one from the world championship.
"I'm sorry we didn't win the semis. I want my victory back!" said Wang Lili, after China lost 21-14 to ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) in the semifinals.
Two hours later was the bronze medal finals. Before the match, coach Xu Jiamin said, "One step further is the medal. Think about how hard you've been tried to stand here. Leave yourself no regrets."
The girls came all-around from the very beginning, standing right before the noses of the French opponents, which lost to them 20-13 on Sunday, to have a 7-3 lead.
With a medal at stake, France fought out one of its best matches in the tournament, trailed only 16-14 and held the possession with 25.8 seconds left on the clock in the 10-minute game.
Wang Lili (L) of China competes during the women's 3x3 basketball semifinal between France and China in Tokyo, Japan, July 28, 2021. (Xinhua/Lan Hongguang)
Their last obstacle to the podium finishing, the Chinese girls, were almost on their knees.
"I was so tired that I could not breathe. My legs were numb," Wang said after the game when talking about China's slim advantage down the stretch.
"I heard people were shouting, but I knew nothing about their words. Nothing disturbed me at that moment," she added.
They suffocated France's last attack and grabbed the precious rebound for the final glory.
Knees on the ground finally, the Chinese girls yelled, hugged and cried, speechlessly.
They don't need to speak a word, the medals speak everything.