(Reuters) - China secured their slot in this year’s women’s Tokyo Olympics basketball tournament by edging European champions Spain 64-62 in a tense qualifier in Serbia on Saturday, with South Korea set to join them.
The Group B qualifiers had to be moved from the city of Foshan in China to Belgrade as a result of the coronavirus epidemic.
China beat Britain 86-76 on Thursday and, with the top three in the four-team group qualifying for Tokyo, made sure of their ticket after holding off a late fightback by the Spaniards.
China were 15 points clear in the second quarter but Spain, still second in the group, roared back into the lead with Alba Torrens netting six in a row before a decisive Shao Ting lay-up with a minute to go.
The Chinese women were runners-up at the 1992 Barcelona Games and will be appearing at their ninth Olympics in Tokyo.
Champions the United States and hosts Japan have already qualified.
South Korea beat Britain 82-79 in a later match that was a must-win for two teams realistically fighting for third in the group.
Britain have never before qualified for an Olympic basketball tournament on merit, appearing only as host nation previously, but had arrived in Belgrade hoping for a breakthrough.
Bottom of the group, they left themselves too much to do in the final quarter despite a late surge and will now have to beat Spain on Sunday to have any hope of qualifying.
“The girls did a great job to come back in the fourth and to get as close as they did. I think maybe we just started to chip away a bit too late,” said Britain forward Chantelle Handy.
“But you know, we still have one more chance. So it’s not over...we cannot dwell on this game.”
Other Olympic qualifiers are taking place this weekend in Ostend, Belgium, and the French city of Bourges.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, Editing by Ken Ferris and Toby Davis