Batum: FIBA OQT win is little step to bigger Rio Olympics

MANILA, Philippines – France claimed the final slot to the Rio Olympics when they outclassed Canada in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament here on Sunday, July 10. The confetti fell and the celebration was in full swing but the French national team, one of the world's basketball powerhouses, knows their task is just beginning. 

"It feels good, a little bit stressed, but we really wanted to win because we know that we are able to go very far," said veteran forward Nicolas Batum in French after defeating Canada, 83-74, at the Mall of Asia Arena.

"It’s a little step, now we are off to Rio for something bigger. We didn't see ourselves not going to Rio anyway."

France joins Serbia and Croatia as the last 3 teams to qualify for Olympic basketball next month, and is drawn with defending champion USA in the group stage.

The French team led by veterans Tony Parker and Boris Diaw together with Batum and tournament MVP Nando de Colo, swept the 6-nation tournament, defeating host team Philippines and New Zealand in the group phase as well as Turkey in the semifinal.

After roughly a one-week break, France will begin preparing for the Olympics that will run from August 5 to 21.

Head coach Vincent Collet said he is not looking to make any major changes to his team particularly in the lineup in order to respect this roster that worked hard to qualify.

"It's been a year that we've been preparing for this. We came for this," said the 27-year-old Batum. "We gave it our all. We've been consistent from the start." –