Women's Sport: Puerto Rico's women's basketball team become beacon of hope in difficult times

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On February 9, Puerto Rico made history when its women's basketball team qualified for their first-ever Olympics after both themselves and Brazil lost to Australia and France.

There is no denying that the Caribbean island has had its fair share of devastation over the past few years. 

Last summer, the populace revolted, calling for the resignation of then-Governor Ricardo Rosselló in the aftermath of Telegramgate, the political scandal exposing both the governor and his staff. The controversy only fuelled an already weary and angry people who struggled to rebuild their lives following 2017's Hurricane Maria. Rosselló resigned on Aug. 2 after a major public uprising.

Unfortunately, destruction hit again at the end of 2019 and early this year with a series of earthquakes striking the island, one of which was a 6.4 magnitude. Absence of help from the US and negligence from Puerto Rico's own government left the community to scavenge for aid and piece their lives back together.

However, in the midst of all the devastation, Puerto Rico's women's basketball team shone down as a ray of light when their journey began on November 14 2019. The team dominated fellow Caribbean rivals the Dominican Republic by 50 points in the FIBA's Americas Pre-Qualifying Tournament.

They went on to play a hard-fought game against Canada but lost out by four points only to turn their luck around in a two-point win over another Caribbean rival in Cuba. This 2-1 record in the pre-qualifying tournament was plenty to carry them to Bourges, France, for the first of four Olympic qualifying tournaments.

Puerto Rico needed to finish in at least third-place in their draw group to qualify for Tokyo 2020, but three formidable opponents in Brazil, Australia and France - the latter two being the top in the world.

The team snatched the victory from Brazil by two points in overtime at the first qualifying game, overcoming an eight-point deficit in the fourth to tie regulation and push them into extended time.

The women went on to lose their fixtures against Australia and France, but that didn't damage their chances as Brazil also lost out to the top two teams in the world. As a result, Puerto Rico qualified for its first-ever Olympics, Tokyo 2020.

Luis Miranda, Puerto Rico's Women's Basketball League, told EFE:
“It’s a dream come true.”

Veteran guard Pamela Rosado, who has represented the island on the court for 17 years, said:

“What we obtain at the end isn’t important. The beautiful thing about this is that we work together for Puerto Rico.”

Tokyo 2020 begins on July 24 and will run through unti August 9, with the group stage of the women's basketball tournament commencing on July 27 and the gold-medal match on August 9.

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