By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The 2016 Aquece Rio Olympic “warm-up” test events kicked off once again this weekend. Running between January 15th and 19th, the Women’s International Basketball Tournament between Argentina, Australia, Brazil and Venezuela was played at the newly opened Carioca Arena 1 in Barra da Tijuca. Men’s Wheelchair Basketball was also contested between two Brazilian teams.
As firm favorites to win, Australia’s victory came as no surprise. They arrived with star player Erin Phillips, who plays for the LA Sparks, in tow and proceeded to beat Argentina and then Venezuela, before defeating the home team 77 to 67 in the final. Brazil finished in second place and Argentina took third.
Speaking about the Australian team’s victory over Venezuela, coach Brendan Joyce said: “They are a pretty young team and not very big. They can be tough games to play sometimes as you can switch off and go up and down but I thought we did well in playing the right way both offensively and defensively.”
Brazil will be looking to capitalize on their home advantage during the Games in August and to win a third Olympic medal in this discipline. They picked up silver in the women’s basketball in Atlanta in 1996 and bronze in Sydney in 2000.
Brazilians Janeth Arcain and Hôrtencia Marcari, who both played in the medal-winning team in Atlanta, opened the new Carioca Arena 1 venue last Tuesday, January 12th. During the Games it will be home to basketball, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby. This month is hosts a number of test events, including powerlifting (January 20th – 23rd) and wrestling (January 30th – 31st). Taekwondo and wheelchair rugby test events will take place in the arena in February and judo in March.
This weekend’s basketball event was considered to have gone well with players admiring the venue and technicians satisfied with its performance. After the Games it will become part of the Olympic Training Centre which will provide top-level sports facilities for school children, social projects and Rio’s residents more widely.