Argentina’s new basketball breed scale the heights
Argentina’s rising stars beat Belgium to earn basketball 3x3 gold at the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 on Wednesday 17 October. In doing so, they fuelled hopes that they are ready to follow in their glittering footsteps of the country’s so-called “golden generation”, who stunned the mighty USA to win the Olympic basketball title at Athens 2004.
The legacy of the heroes of that stunning achievement was very much in evidence in the crowd at the Urban Park in Puerto Madero. On display were various shirts bearing the names, among others, of Manu Ginóbili and Luis Scola, two of the leading lights of that fabled Argentina side.
Showing that they might be about to emulate their achievements, the Argentina quartet of Juan Hierrezuelo, slamdunk gold medallist Fausto Ruesga, Juan de la Fuente, and Marco Giordano proved too strong for the Belgians in the gold medal match, holding them off for a 20-15 win.
Giordano led the way with 11 points, though he and his three team-mates all worked hard in defence to deny the Europeans, who went into the final unbeaten after seeing off Slovenia 14-12 in the semis.
Argentina came close to not making it to the final at all, having struggled to see off Ukraine and the colossal Ihor Serheiv, whose 2.10m frame made him a constant threat. De la Fuente came up with some crucial points as a thrilling match went into overtime, however, with Giordano sealing an 18-16 win to secure the hosts a silver at least.
In reaching the last four the Argentinians beat Estonia 22-19, Russia 21-14 and Mongolia 22-15 in the pool phase and Georgia 21-12 in the quarter-finals. Their only defeat of the competition came against the USA (21-18) in their final pool match.
Having improved on the nation’s bronze at Nanjing 2014, the triumphant quartet will now have their sights set on Tokyo 2020, where basketball 3x3 will make its senior Olympic debut and where they hope to continue what is now a golden generational handover.