By sportswriter Su Bin
BEIJING, April 6 (Xinhua) -- For Xu Limin, head coach of China's women's basketball team, finding a way to turn the uncertainties brought on by the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics into positives has been on his mind for a while.
"It (the postponement of the Olympic Games) has had a massive impact on us in terms of laying out our training plan. We have to turn disadvantages into advantages," he told Xinhua on Monday.
The Tokyo Olympic Games have been postponed by 12 months to the summer of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
China booked their ticket to the women's Olympic basketball tournament with a perfect record in three qualifying matches in February.
Xu reminisced on his team's Olympic qualification journey, where they had to play 'home' games in the Serbian capital of Belgrade rather than on their usual home court in Foshan, as the COVID-19 epidemic then broke out in China.
"It was all about mentalities. We motivated the Chinese people in fighting against the COVID-19, and harvested the motivation ourselves through the process. We made better preparation for the challenges of playing abroad, and discovered more power from it," said Xu.
The team returned to China in early March, where they would train in isolation at the Beijing Sport University instead of their familiar training base at the General Administration of Sport.
"We have to adjust ourselves to a new environment, which is big difficulty itself. Being isolated in one place for a long period is another challenge," Xu admitted.
Xu laments the fact that, after the qualifying games, his team had a lot of momentum leading up to the Olympics.
"We had hoped to gain experience and broaden our vision from competing with some powerhouses before the Olympics, which was not the case," he rued.
But the coach has found new ways to see the ongoing situation as a benefit to his players.
"We can make use of training here to work on improving our weaknesses, especially some fundamentals," Xu noted.
"We have to face up to what's approaching us, and try our best to do well," he added.
Each week, Xu lays out a detailed plan for the team to focus on a certain aspect of the game; such as fast breaks, defense and rebounds.
"Over the past weeks, we have mainly run drills on offense, which requires the most time to improve for a young team," he said.
Each player received a brochure specifically shedding light on how to adjust and manage their mentalities during these uncertain times.
"We want to prepare everyone as best as we can," Xu pointed out.
"We fully understand the decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics," said the team captain Shao Ting. "After all, health always comes first."
"Our preparation has been affected a bit by the postponement. On the other hand, we have time now for self improvement. The team chemistry is also escalating to another level as we stay together every day.
"We hope to build on the momentum, and showcase ourselves for a better result on the Olympic stage in 2021," said Shao.