Chinese team to play Olympic qualifiers despite coronavirus
By Rebecca Williams, Sky Sports News reporter
Last Updated: 03/02/20 11:11am
Chinese athletes will have to provide a medical certificate and undergo screening to ensure they are not contagious before they can compete against their Team GB counterparts in the Olympic basketball qualifying matches.
The move comes after Team GB women's basketball team had their qualifiers moved from China to Serbia, following the outbreak of coronavirus.
The disease, which spread from the Chinese city of Wuhan, has killed 259 people so far and infected thousands more.
The situation has now been declared a global emergency. Symptoms include fatigue, breathing difficulties, coughing and even pneumonia.
Chantelle Handy, who plays small forward for Team GB, said: "Over the last week it has spread and we were a bit worried about what was going to happen.
"I think FIBA has made the right decision to move it, just for the safety of everybody else. So we are happy about it and it is better for us because the travel isn't going to be as intense so our prep and recovery is probably going to be better."
Team GB have an opportunity to make history in the coming days. The women's side are hoping to qualify for the Olympics in their own right for the first time. They competed at London 2012, but automatically went through as the host nation.
In recent years Team GB have had their funding cut significantly. That was part of the reason that they failed to qualify to compete in Rio. But they are now playing better than ever. They finished fourth at the recent Eurobasket competition and their Spanish Coach, Chema Buceta has had a big impact.
He is considered by some to be the Pep Guardiola of the basketball world. A comparison he finds amusing.
"I don't think we have anything in common, especially his salary isn't the same. It's not even close", Buceta told Sky Sports News.
"In fact, when he took the course in Spain to get a coach's licence, I was teaching psychology on the course. I met him…
"I always appreciate that he believes in empowering players. Maybe we are similar in that respect".
Just a week ago news broke that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash in California, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. Bryant was a player who inspired a generation. He was also an advocate of the women's game.
Team GB player, Georgia Jones said: "I think for any basketball player he was an inspiration.
"Just his work ethic, his mental toughness, just everything he was about. I think it would be crazy if you are a basketball player and weren't affected by Kobe Bryant".