Familiar faces returning in Brazil, Rio 2016 blog

Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Argentina legend Manu Ginobili is to grace the international stage for a final time.

The 38-year-old will be coming out of international retirement to compete at the Rio Olympics this summer.

Ginobili last played in the trademark sky blue and white at the 2012 London Games, missing out on the FIBA World Cup in 2014 and last year’s FIBA Americas. But the San Antonio Spurs guard wants one last fling with Olympic glory, 12 years on from his gold medal showing with Argentina in Athens.

“It’s a very brave and correct decision,” Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez said to FIBA.com. “To say that I’m happy, personally, that Manu is available, would be to see things from a small angle, from a very insignificant spot.”

While the men look forward to Rio, knowing that Ginobili will be with them, the women are also in the mix for Olympic qualification, but they have to get through the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Nantes first.

It’s a challenge that is welcomed and Melissa Gretter is one who looks forward to the summer ahead with the Argentina women, as they face Cuba, New Zealand and hosts France in June.

“I think about the [WOQT] all the time, always,” Gretter said.

“It would be our greatest achievement and for that reason, we are working hard. Those players in Argentina are meeting and having weekly workouts and those of us abroad are still training hard with our clubs, but with a view to that tournament for one of the five places. We want to achieve something.”

Nothing will give Gretter more joy in life than to participate at the Rio Olympics this summer. But then again, nothing gives the 23-year-old more pleasure than putting on the national team vest.

“Basketball is my way of living,” Gretter said. “Fortunately, I can make a living doing what I like to do. To share this with others on different occasions, with friends who gave me the sport, is incredible.”

NIGERIA LOOK TO MAKE HISTORY (ON THE RIGHT SIDE)

Four years ago, Nigeria’s Olympic adventure was a short-lived one, eliminated with one win from five games played. But thir London 2012 experience will always be remembered for one thing.

That fateful summer’s night on August 2 saw Nigeria lose to the USA 156-73 in a game where the Nigerians lost by a record amount (83), conceded the most three-pointers in a game (29) and field goals (59). That game saw Carmelo Anthony put on the single most impressive performance seen in international basketball with 37 points in just 14 minutes of play.

Ike Diogu, who led Nigeria with 27 points and seven rebounds on that night says that Nigeria have moved on from London Games and they aim to become the first African nation to progress from the preliminary rounds in history.

So much so, that Nigeria have used the hashtag #RoadToRedemption on their Twitter feed.

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Nigeria’s Ike Diogu led his team to a 1-4 record at the London Olympics in 2012. Here, he dunks home in their only win against Tunisia at the Basketball Arena. Photo: FIBA

“It’s going to be our second Olympics together. We know what to expect, how to prepare the right way,” Diogu said to FIBA.com. “It’s a good feeling. Those are all top ranked national teams. It’s something that everybody is excited for. We are excited to see how far we’ve come since 2012.”

Thankfully for the Nigerians, they won’t see the USA in the group stages, as they are drawn alongside Spain, Lithuania, Argentina, Brazil and an Olympic Qualifier.