Great Britain basketball Olympic qualifier: It’s about more than just Tokyo – Chantelle Handy

February 5, 2020
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    Chantelle Handy (left)

    Chantelle Handy (left) was a crucial part of GB’s drive to the EuroBasket 2019 semi-finals

    Great Britain are playing to ‘keep alive’ the national basketball programme by qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, says forward Chantelle Handy.

    GB basketball lost its Lottery funding after London 2012 but now have the chance to qualify a team for the Olympics on merit for the first time.

    “We just want to keep GB alive. It would be really sad if the programme can’t continue,” Handy told BBC Sport.

    GB play Spain, China and South Korea this week.

    Three of the four teams will qualify for Tokyo.

    “We want to go to Tokyo but for me it’s more about trying to live on and hopefully get some funding for the younger generations,” added Handy.

    The Belgrade event was moved to Serbia from Foshan in China due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

    Belgrade timetable

    • Thu 6 Feb: China v GB (11:00), Spain v S Korea (13:30)
    • Sat 8 Feb: China v Spain (11:00), GB v S Korea (13:30)
    • Sun 9 Feb: China v S Korea (11:00), Spain v GB (13:30)

    “This is the biggest tournament I’m going to participate in besides the Olympic Games and we want that ticket,” said point guard Rachael Vanderwal, who like Handy, played at the London Olympics.

    “I think we can make history and really put GB Basketball on the big stage.”

    Both GB men’s and women’s teams have operated on what has been described as ‘minimal funding’ after their funding was cut in the wake of the London Olympics.

    In 2018, GB basketball expressed concerns over their ability to continue their elite programme due to lack of funds.

    That prompted UK Sport and the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to put together a special support package amounting to about £500,000, with a further £75,000 later released from UK Sport’s Aspiration Fund.

    “We haven’t got the support that we deserve, really,” said Vanderwal. “To get to the actual Olympics, if that doesn’t change things what can?

    Chantelle Handy (centre) and Rachael Vanderwal

    Chantelle Handy (centre) and Rachael Vanderwal both played on GB’s 2012 Olympic team

    It’s really motivation for us to prove that GB Basketball deserves funding – so we can say ‘look what what we’ve done already – with a little support we can do more’.”

    “We’ve had obstacles in the past but we’re here to fight and prove a point that we belong,” said Chantel Charles, who made her GB debut in Poland in November. “If we were to qualify it would have a big impact on a lot of people from the youth to women.”

    Great Britain’s women reached this qualifying event thanks to their best ever performance at Eurobasket last year, when they finished fourth.

    “No-one’s ever done this before; this is our time to create history,” added Charles. “And it’s us women who are doing this first kind of vibe.”

    Both China and Spain are ranked in the world top 10, with Spain the reigning European champions. Great Britain and South Korea are ranked 18 and 19 respectively.

    “We’re realistic, we know it’s going to be hard,” said Handy, who like Vanderwal has more than 100 caps for Great Britain. “But that’s our mindset going into every game. It’s going to be a war – because everybody wants that ticket.

    “Now is just our time – a lot of us are maybe looking to retire in the next few years – we want to make a statement before we leave.”

    GB squad in Belgrade: Kristine Anigwe (Izmit, Tur), Mollie Campbell, Chantel Charles, Temi Fagbenle, Nicolette Fong, Cheridene Green, Chantelle Handy, Georgia Jones, Johannah Leedham-Warner, Janice Monakana, Karlie Samuelson, Hannah Shaw, Eilidh Simpson, Rachael Vanderwal.

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