Women’s basketball in Nanjing: Hoop dreams fulfilled

Like the men, the women took part in two basketball competitions at Nanjing 2014: the individual shootout, which put the accent on accuracy and speed, and the 3x3 team event, a vibrant, half-court format of the game.

Held at the Wutaishan Sports Centre and appearing on the YOG programme for the very first time, the women’s individual shootout contest began with a preliminary phase in which 61 athletes attempted 10 shots from the top of the arc in a maximum allotted time of 33 seconds.

Esther Fokke (NED) topped the scoring, nailing eight out of her 10 shots in 21.2 seconds. She was joined in the four-player final round by Spain’s Lucia Togores Carpintero, who scored seven baskets in 23.4 seconds, Slovenia’s Ela Mićunović (six in 22.4) and USA’s Katie Lou Samuelson (six in 23.6).

In the battle for the medals the quartet were again required to shoot baskets against the clock, this time from four different positions on the court. Carpintero adapted best to the task, racking up seven points in 32.6 seconds to pocket the gold medal.

“This is so great,” said the champion. “I never expected to win. There are people on my team who are better shooters that I am.”

Mićunović collected four points in 31.6 seconds to earn silver, prompting her to comment: “I knew I’d won something when I finished shooting, but I didn’t know which [medal] until the other girls were finished. This is incredible.”

“It really puts your nerves to the test, but it’s great. It’s fantastic to win a medal,” said third-placed Samuelson, who also scored four points, but in a slightly slower time than the Slovenian. Fokke failed to match her preliminary-round heroics, chalking up only three points in a time of 29.8 seconds to finish fourth.

Samuelson on song in team final

Five days after winning bronze in the shootout, Samuelson cemented her reputation as one of the world’s leading teenage players with a top-scoring eight-point haul to inspire USA to a 19-10 win over the Netherlands in the gold medal match.

After going though the group phase unbeaten, the Americans saw off Venezuela 21-7 in the last 16, Estonia 21-12 in the quarters and Hungary 21-14 in the semis.

“Mission accomplished,” Samuelson said following their defeat of the Dutch. “We worked so hard to get here and our mindset was we were not going to let another team take this from us.”

Like most of the players who appeared at Nanjing 2014, Samuelson is more accustomed to playing five against five, though she thoroughly enjoyed the new format: “It gives you more freedom and I like a fast game. You’ve only got 12 seconds to shoot, which makes for fast play. It’s all been great fun.”

“It’s been a great experience here the last two weeks and this was a great way to finish it off,” said her team-mate Napheesa Collier. “We just got along really well and the chemistry we had as a team was one of the main reasons we won.”

Spain completed the podium line-up by beating Hungary 12-11 in the third-place match, ensuring that Carpintero joined Samuelson in winning a bronze and a gold.