Brazil’s Women’s Basketball Team Brings New Strategy to Tokyo

In 2016, Brazil’s women’s basketball squad disappointed in their home country going 0-5.  The team finished second to last, only semantically edging out Senegal.  After that showing, the country’s national basketball organization went back to the drawing board.  The Brazilians are bringing an entirely new approach to the upcoming summer games.  The roster is completely turned over and they are undoubtedly poised to revolutionize the sport. 

Brazil had a couple close matchups in 2016, losing to Belarus by 2 and Turkey by 3 in the group stage.  With their dismal record, they were relegated to the bleachers early on.  At least they didn’t have to travel in 2016.  On the positive side, they had front row seats to watch the US team seemingly out score each of their opponents 2 to 1.  Now, I don’t want to be too harsh.  Teams still have to be top twelve in the world to qualify for the Games.  Now the issue for Brazil is going from being an also- ran to a serious contender.

After everyone went back to their respective homelands, the Brazilians got to work on a new gameplan.  Back in 2018, they finally saw the vision.  Every single player on the roster was axed.  They were going in a completely new direction, and not only for their group but the world.  The team is bigger, stronger, and faster than ever and they are hungry to avenge the 2016 outing.

This summer Brazilian Women’s Basketball will unveil the first full roster of transgender women in Olympics history.  As the movement for transgender men entering women’s sports has grown, this will be the largest scale disruption in athletics in the modern era.  Brazil’s team will feature 12 former male semi- professional basketball players.  These men were recently hanging on to the last of their careers in the game but now have new life.  They are collectively elated to realize their dreams of competing in the Olympics.

The revolutionary move has remained a lesser- circulated triumph of equity and inclusion as the Games approach.  But as we inch closer (hopefully) to the rescheduled event in Tokyo, everyone in the media is doing their homework and preparing their profile stories.  There are always so many examples of competitors that overcome incredible feats and display unimaginable levels of fortitude to reach the pinnacle of athletic achievement.  The Olympics are the culmination of lifetimes built on making it to this moment.  This is no different for these trailblazers. 

Like any sweeping cultural change, there are those who push back because they are intolerant of change.  There have been cries from some that the Brazilian team has an unfair advantage but this is just transparently transphobic.  These detractors want to exclude athletes who just want to realize their dream of competing in the Games.  These transgender women have not always identified as women but they have always strived toward greatness in the game of basketball.  Now those who cry foul want to delegitimize these competitors based solely on their identity. 

Some biological females argue that the Tokyo tournament will be tainted, including members of the US team.  They seem to be laying the foundation of having an excuse for when they aren’t able to steamroll through the bracket.  Are they selfishly concerned for their personal legacy or are they simply unwilling to accept people across the human spectrum to their sport?  It seems from my view that the American basketball players have been quite outspoken on cultural and social issues.  Many of them have found their voice in a turbulent time in their nation.  So is it only when the changing of social norms encroaches their court that they draw the line?

Fortunately for the Brazilian team, the Olympic committee is a forward thinking union.  They see the Games as one of the only remaining events that unifies the world, if only briefly.  By backing the Brazilian team, the committee really expresses that inclusiveness, acceptance and opportunity are truly important to the athletic atmosphere.  I think we can all look to the Tokyo Games as a glimpse into a future of a radically reimagined competitive landscape.  As for the Brazilians, I hope that they are able to leave the bitter taste of 2016 in the past and cross into the arena of true Olympic contenders.

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