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Basketball - 15. May 2009.

GBR - Olympic dream alive and well as British women reinstated to Division A

LONDON (EuroBasket Division A) - The Great Britain women have received a boost in their bid to play at the 2012 Olympics in London after being reinstated to Division A of the EuroBasket by FIBA Europe.

Twenty-four hours after the announcement that the Brits had appointed Australian Tom Maher as their new coach is the equally important development on the national team’s renewed Division A status which now allows the country to go through qualifying for the EuroBasket Women in two years.

Confirmation of the restored top flight status by FIBA Europe's Secretary General Nar Zanolin appears in a British Basketball statement that was issued on Tuesday morning.

"The Board of FIBA Europe at its meeting in Cannes on Friday, 10th May 2009 has exceptionally approved the admission of the Great Britain (GBR) women's team to Division A of the EuroBasket Women 2009," said Zanolin in an official letter to British Basketball.

"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."

FIBA, the world governing body of basketball, declared when London was awarded the Games that they wanted to be certain of the competitiveness of British teams before allowing them to take up their spots in London.

And they also saw a huge opportunity to create a legacy in Great Britain for basketball beyond 2012 that would include an improvement of the national league, a successful participation of British teams in international basketball both on national team level and club level as well as a general strengthening in the structure of British basketball.

Britain’s men last summer earned a spot at this year’s EuroBasket in Poland but the women’s side did not have good results.

They had hoped to qualify for next month’s EuroBasket Women in Latvia but only went 1-7 in Group A of Division A last summer and then at that start of 2009 finished 3-3 in the Relegation Round to drop into Division B.

Now they have been granted a reprieve.

Chris Spice, the performance director of British Basketball, said: "It has been a great week for the British Basketball program. We have confirmed a head coach of Olympic proportions and also received news that the strides we have taken to be seen as a top European nation have been recognized.

"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, combined with Tom's caliber, will equate to a successful A Division campaign.

"I'd like to also thank all of my colleagues for their help in achieving this fantastic news."

This is not the first time that FIBA Europe have renewed a country’s Division A status.

Poland’s men, who had already been awarded the men’s EuroBasket 2009, were relegated to Division B in 2005 but were then put back into Division A.

They took full advantage by qualifying for EuroBasket 2007 in Spain.

As for this year, Britain’s women do not have any competitive games but they will play friendlies under Maher, who has been signed through London 2012.

Maher is the former coach of Australia, New Zealand and most recently China.

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