Canada (0-0) vs. Serbia (0-0)
When: Monday, July 26th, 4:20 a.m. ET (5:20 p.m. JST)
Where: Saitama Super Arena
Where things stand:
Live from Tokyo: Roughly one year later than originally anticipated, the world’s greatest athletes are together in Tokyo and the 2020 Olympics are officially underway. Canada punched its ticket to Tokyo in February 2020 after going undefeated in the FIBA Women’s Qualifying Tournament in Ostend, Belgium. After nearly 16 months away from that competition, the Senior Women’s National Team is ready to get their Tokyo 2020 Women's Olympic Basketball Tournament campaign underway with their first game taking place on July 26th at 4:20 a.m. ET against Serbia.
Leading the way: As a delegation of 30 Canadian athletes marched in the Opening Ceremony, three-time Olympian and Senior Women’s National Team veteran Miranda Ayim was leading the way, serving as flag bearer alongside Rugby Sevens player Nathan Hirayama.
Back home in London, Ontario, Ayim’s parents were watching -- and cheering -- live, at 7 a.m. ET, in celebration.
Things to know heading into Canada’s first game of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics:
How things will go down: Canada will open the tournament against Serbia in the Group Phase of the Tokyo 2020 Women's Olympic Basketball Tournament. Canada will also face Korea (July 28, 9:00 p.m. ET) and Spain (July 30, 9:00 p.m. ET) in the Group Phase. These four teams make up Group A, the remaining eight teams in Tokyo make up Groups B and C.
The teams placed first and second in each group and the 2 best third-placed teams in the Group Phase qualify for the Final Phase.
A draw will take place following the conclusion of the Group Phase to determine the pairings of the Quarter-Finals. This stage of the competition is played in a knockout format and the draw will produce an Olympic bracket for the road to the gold medal.
Preparing for success: Team Canada enters the Tokyo 2020 Women's Olympic Basketball Tournament holding its highest ever FIBA World Ranking in the organization’s history. Currently ranked No. 4 in the world in the FIBA World Ranking Presented by NIKE, Canada enters preliminary action against No. 3 ranked Spain, No. 8 ranked Serbia and No. 19 ranked Korea
Prior to the Olympics, after a lengthy separation due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Senior Women’s National Team competed in the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup 2021 in Puerto Rico. Though the team was without WNBA players Natalie Achonwa, Bridget Carleton and Kia Nurse, Canada narrowly missed out on a third-place finish in the tournament in what served as a tune-up for Tokyo.
Along with flagbearer Miranda Ayim, team captain Kim Gaucher and WNBA veteran Natalie Achonwa make up Team Canada’s trio of three-time Olympians. Though the three have prior experience at the Olympics, things are a little different for Team Canada this time around, and not just because of the pandemic.
“Throughout my career, [things have changed for the program],” Ayim said. “With our first qualification to the London 2012 Olympics, it was almost a surprise. It was not guaranteed. In 2016, going to Rio, we expected to qualify and we wanted to do something. We wanted to make some noise then. And now, we're at a point where not only have we been expected to qualify for everything for the last quite a while, we're expected to medal. The expectations around that, both from ourselves and from outside external factors, if you will, have definitely mounted. But that also makes it exciting. It's a cool position to be in.”
Depth of experience: While Canada has a trio of three-time Olympians in Achonwa, Ayim and Gaucher, the team as a whole is a balanced mix of veterans and first-timers. Nirra Fields, Kia Nurse and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe also represented Canada along with Achonwa, Ayim and Gaucher in Rio at the 2016 Olympics. Tokyo will be the first Olympic Games for Kayla Alexander, Laeticia Amihere, Bridget Carleton, Shay Colley, Aaliyah Edwards and Shaina Pellington.
Full hearts: Because of the 13-hour time difference between Eastern Standard Time and Japan Standard Time, this will be an Olympics involving plenty of late nights and early mornings for Canadians opting to watch the action live on Television. Despite the distance, Team Canada has felt the support from Canadians all over the world. As a result of the pandemic, there will not be spectators at the Games. In a year where friends and family will not be present, the virtual messages of support have meant the world to the Senior Women’s National Team.
“I want everyone to know that we will do our best to represent you to the best of our abilities,” Ayim said. “We have so much love in our heart and pride to wear the maple leaf on our chest. I know that this team and the way that we play, our style of play, and who we are will make you proud. And I hope that these games bring some joy and happiness to the people watching back home.”
Where to watch: Fans in Canada can catch all of the action live on CBC and streaming live on CBC Gem.