SUVA (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) - Conventional wisdom says Fiji’s women’s national team has two chances of reaching the Beijing Olympics – Slim and None.
And Slim just left town.
There is no disputing the fact that the Fijians are rank outsiders heading into June’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women in Madrid.
Twelve teams will battle for five remaining places still up for grabs for China.
"We have never been here before,” said national team coach Mike Whippy.
“If there is an underdog team in this tournament, then we are the biggest underdogs of them all.”
Indeed, Fiji are ranked 58th in the FIBA rankings, with Angola at 42 the closest team on the ladder to Whippy’s team that will be at the Madrid tournament.
Fiji must finish in the top two of their group, and that means taking a game off of either hosts Spain, or South American giants Brazil.
“Brazil and Spain outclass us in every measurable way, but we expect nothing less than their ‘A’ game and we will be trying our best to compete on the floor, five on five,” Whippy said.
So how did a country from the South Pacific like Fiji make it this far?
They claimed a spot in Madrid by winning the South Pacific Games.
Oceania already has the world champions Australia at the Olympics, and because the Opals qualified directly, New Zealand advanced to Beijing as well by beating Fiji in the FIBA Oceania Championship back in September.
No matter what happens, taking part in the Madrid tournament is great news for basketball in the region.
“It is an exciting time for the whole squad,” Whippy said.
“We have an idea of what to expect, but whatever happens, be it during the tournament or on the court, it will be something new, and a life memory experience for all of us.
“God Bless Fiji.”