By Rocky Swift
TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. First Lady Jill Biden watched their countrywomen tangle on the 3×3 basketball court at the sport’s Olympic debut.
Biden jumped to her feet and clapped when the clock ran out with the U.S. team winning 17-10 against No.1 ranked France. Stefanie Dolson, who played for the WNBA’s Chicago Sky in the 2021 season, led the Americans with seven points.
In the first game of the tournament, Japan’s women’s team lost 21-18 to the No.2-ranked Russian women who, competing as the ROC, won both of their matches.
Serbia’s men, also favourites for medals, had a perfect record on the day.
With the U.S. men’s team’s surprise elimination in the qualifiers, Serbia and Latvia seem favourites in the medal race.
Serbia beat China 22-13 then edged Netherlands 16-15.
“This is the biggest tournament in my life so you know it will be a pleasure to win any kind of medal, but we are aiming for the gold,” said Serbia’s Dusan Domovic Bulut, the fledgling sport’s first superstar.
Latvia beat Poland 21-14 in their first match, but then were upset 21-20 by Belgium with a game-winning two-point shot from Thibaut Vervoort in the final minute.
However, the Belgians then lost 18-16 to Japan in the last game of the day.
With an Olympics debut, 3×3 is looking to boost its global profile as a faster-paced, more compact alternative to basketball.
The game is played on half-court with three players on each side and a team wins by reaching 21 points or having the most baskets by the end of the 10-minute game clock.
DJs play hip-hop music throughout competition 3×3 games, in keeping with the sport’s urban roots.
The medal matches will take place on Wednesday after a round-robin tournament of eight teams each of men and women.