The 2012 Olympic qualifying hopes of Britain’s women’s basketball team were boosted yesterday following the Board of FIBA Europe’s decision to reinstate them as Division-A team.
The nation’s team, who were promoted to Europe’s top division in 2007, were thrown into a relegation round in January this year following the narrowest of defeats to Germany.
Britain lost out in a four-nation round robin relegation series held across 16 days due to being handicapped by the absence of their top American college players, who were not released for the games against Bosnia & Herzegovina, Romania and Finland.
FIBA Europe has decided to reinstate the Britain to Division A competition in 2012-11 based on a their performances against top European sides and the fact that London 2012 represents a great opportunity to promote the sport.
In a statement Nar Zanolin, FIBA Europe Secretary General, said: “This decision was taken for the purpose of promoting basketball in Great Britain and in line with your request to allow your country to continue to play for the London Olympics 2012.”
Performance director of British Basketball, Chris Spice said: “We are thankful to FIBA and FIBA Europe for the opportunity to prove that we belong in Europe’s elite and believe that the group of talent we have at present will equate to a successful A-Division campaign.”
The good news continued as British Basketball announced that Tom Maher, who has twice coached the Australian women’s team to Olympic medals, has been appointed head coach of the GB women’s team through to London 2012.
The 56-year-old from Melbourne is the most successful coach in the history of the Australian Women’s National Basketball League. He led Australia to a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and the silver in Sydney four years later.
“It has been a great week for the British Basketball programme. We have confirmed a head coach of Olympic proportions.”
Maher replaces Mark Clark, who resigned in February after Britain’s relegation from the top division of EuroBasket. The relegation came despite the sport receiving £8.7 million from UK Sport in December to help its preparations for London 2012.
Maher said: “Taking the GB job was a no brainer really. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to coach a home nation at the Olympics, in a city I’ve spent almost no time in; it was an easy decision.”
With no competitive games this summer, Maher will instead have time to get to know the team and prepare for next year’s division A games.
Hannah Galloway, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
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