With Olympic qualification on the line, Great Britain basketball player Rachael Vanderwal is hoping that emotions don’t get the better of her, writes Hannah Clarke.
A fourth-place finish at EuroBasket last year ensured the GB women’s team a spot in one of the Olympic qualifying tournaments.
A tough test awaits as they face China, South Korea and Spain in a round robin in Foshan, China from 6-9 February with the top three teams booking their place at Tokyo 2020.
For Vanderwal the tournament represents a second opportunity to be part of Team GB, after playing in front of the home crowd at 2012.
Britain automatically qualified as the host nation during that Games and that experience is motivating Vanderwal for the upcoming tournament.
“I have so many emotions when I think about the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. I actually try not to think about it, because I get stressed and nervous,” Vanderwal said.
“It is such a big tournament as every team wants to make the Olympics. I just want to get to China already and play so we know.
“Every athletes’ dream is to play at the Olympics. It is the biggest sporting event in the world. To get the opportunity to do it twice, would be pretty epic.
“When I think back to London 2012, it was just all so surreal. The whole experience was amazing.
“I want my other teammates to get to experience those feelings and have those memories. There is nothing like it in the world, it is so special.”
All four qualifying tournaments are taking place at the same time for women’s basketball with 16 nations taking part and trying to secure their place at Tokyo.
However, an additional challenge facing the GB women is the fact they were drawn in the only qualifying tournament not in Europe.
But despite knowing how tough qualification will be, Vanderwal and GB teammate Eilidh Simpson can’t wait to give it their best.
“Travelling to China is not the ideal situation for us, but we have to embrace it and just there and play basketball,” Vanderwal explained.
“Of course, the travelling will take its toll, and the jet lag but I’m sure the adrenaline of what is at stake will help us.”
Simpson added: “It is going to be tough to travel to China, but we know we’ll prepare correctly and be ready for that first game against the hosts.
“We have a tough draw but at this stage with the top 16 teams in the world, no draw is easy really. We will take it one game at a time and give it our best crack. Our hope is obviously to be going to Tokyo later in the year.”