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When it comes to basketball, the 3x3 competition at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games is not for the faint of heart. One second a team is on the attack and, in the blink of an eye, it is in full retreat. And given the format of both the men’s and women’s competitions, the pace will be hectic.
Games are played on a half-court, with one basket, and there is a single period of 10 minutes. Players are up against a 12-second shot clock and the first team to 21 points wins. “You have to play faster and you have to think a lot and I like that,” said Spain’s Laia Flores Costa.
“You have to learn to play quickly. I think you have to be more physical and play more intelligent. In 5-on-5, you have 40 minutes and here we have so we have to be fast and think quick.”
Three-on-three basketball is among the most played recreational team sports in the world. The sport made its world debut at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games, and following the success the game enjoyed there, FIBA, the world governing body for basketball, launched an effort to make it a stand-alone sport.
While most of the competitors have played traditional 5-on-5 basketball, they cannot wait for the 3x3 tournament to begin. “I would not say this is more difficult, but it is more fun,” said towering Guatemalan men’s player Juan Rosales.
“In 5-on-5 you have a specific role. If you are a point guard, then you are a point guard. If you are a forward, you are a forward. In 3x3, what is fun is you can do whatever you want because there is so much space on the court. It is quick. You have to think fast and the momentum is always changing. You can be losing by 10 points and suddenly you can be winning by five.”
Serbia won gold in the men’s tournament at the Singapore 2010 Games, while China took gold on the women’s side. But much has changed since then and Belgium women’s coach Arvid Diels (BEL) says the rise in popularity of the 3x3 format will make for a more competitive tournament. “You can have two good players and be competitive,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of improvement since four years ago.”
The Nanjing 2014 Games will also mark the debut of the dunk contest for men and a shooting contest for women. “I can’t wait,” said Rosales, on his chance to showcase his dunking skills.
Meanwhile, Diels thinks the women’s shooting contest will be interesting. “When it is indoor, you can say a player is a good shooter, but in a shooting contest outdoors, the conditions can change,” he said.
The shooting and dunking contests are set for Thursday, 21 August, while the men’s and women’s gold medal finals will be played on Tuesday, 26 August.