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Having never been played at an international level before, no one quite knew what to expect ahead of the 3x3 basketball tournaments at the YOG Singapore 2010. In the end, tickets to the events proved to be among the hottest in town as fans flocked to the *scape, the urban downtown venue in Singapore to enjoy the fast-paced and action-packed matches.
With just three players on each team, and matches played on a half court with one rim, the games provided plenty of dazzling skills and thrilling contests throughout the tournament.
The USA men’s and women’s teams were widely expected to emulate their country’s dominance at the senior Olympic level, and so it proved in the early rounds of each event. The US men finished top of Group C with a perfect record of four wins out of four, as Angelo Chol, Brandan Kearney and Sterling Gibbs all shone in the Stars and Stripes. But there were visible chinks in their armour, particularly when they were pushed hard in their final group match against the Central African Republic, eventually overturning a half-time deficit to win a tight encounter 32-28.
The USA weren’t the only ones to catch the eye in the opening men’s matches, either, with Serbia, Croatia and Argentina all posting perfect records as well. All but Argentina eventually qualified for the semi-finals, with the final four producing plenty of fireworks.
Both matches needed overtime to find a winner, with Serbia overcoming the USA 34-29 thanks to a superb display by Sasa Avramovic, and Croatia – led by the impressive Martin Ramljak – getting the better of Greece. The gold medal match then saw Serbia underline their dominance with a comprehensive 22-9 win over Croatia, as Avramovic and Marko Radonjic both starred for the men in white, sparking huge celebrations inside the *scape arena.
The women’s tournament was no less thrilling, with the US again emerging as the team to beat in the opening round. The Americans – spearheaded by Kiah Stokes – coasted to four successive wins, scoring 130 points and only conceding 30 in return. They eventually met their match in the semi-finals, however, with Australia demonstrating incredible fighting spirit to overturn an eight-point deficit and claim a shock overtime victory against their much-fancied rivals, as Hannah Kaser and Olivia Bontempelli led the green and gold to a famous win.
The gold medal match then pitted the Aussies against China, whose efficiency on the court had seen off Canada in the other semi-final. With Bontempelli’s shooting unusually off-target for Australia, China were able to surge into a 20-9 lead at half-time. Bontempelli and Kaser found their rhythm after the break to help cut China’s lead, but Xueya Ma and Yi Shen soon reasserted China’s authority to secure a 33-29 victory.
But while China and Serbia left with the gold, and the fans who filled the *scape Youth Space each day left with golden memories, the YOG themselves were left with an incredible new event that had made an instant impact on the Olympic Movement.