By Nick Creely
Two-time WNBL champion and Southside Flyers star Sara Blicavs has received a late call-up to the Tokyo Olympic Games, with the forward drafted into the Australian Opals squad ahead of Tuesday’s opening match against Belgium.
Blicavs, 28 – who won the WNBL championship with the Flyers in 2020 where she was also named in the All-WNBL Second Team – is a domestic basketball champion, with a previous WNBL championship with the Bendigo Spirit in 2014.
She has been a long-term Dandenong Rangers (now Flyers) star, starting at the franchise in 2012, before returning in 2015 where she has been a force ever since.
Blicavs replaces Liz Cambage – who is facing a Basketball Australia investigation after exiting the Opals squad – and will be looking to relish the opportunity after a tough year which saw her originally cut from the squad.
But now the Flyers star will join her fellow WNBL teammates, Jenna O’Hea, who will captain the Opals, as well as veteran Leilani Mitchell in the Olympics side as they chase glory in Tokyo.
O’Hea – the Flyers WNBL championship winning skipper from last year – is set for her first Olympic Games since 2012 and will have a massive say on proceedings for the Aussies, who are going to be a tough side to topple alongside the USA team.
The Opals are in Group C and will kick off their campaign on Tuesday (today) against Belgium, with tip-off at 6:20pm, before clashes against China on Friday 30 July at 10:00pm and Puerto Rico on Monday 2 August at 10:00pm.
In other local Olympic news with the Games currently in full swing, and Dandenong Table Tennis champion Heming Hu lost his first game in the mixed doubles with fellow Victorian Melissa Tapper on Saturday.
The Australian duo came up against the powerful France team in their first game since the Covid-19 pandemic, and lost 5-11, 9-11, 1-11, 0-11 in their Round of 16 match but were far from disgraced as the tune up for the rest of the Games.
On Facebook over the weekend, the Australian number one ranked player said it was great to get the first game out of the way.
“As always, I love playing with Melissa Tapper and even more so on the biggest stages,” he said.
“It was great to get the cobwebs of first international tournament since Covid, as well as getting more and more mentally warmed into competition mode here in Tokyo.
“It’s always a different feeling and sensation playing your very first match in a new tournament/arena and your second, third, fourth.”
The Australian champion – alongside Chris Yan and Dave Powell – now sets his sights on Sunday’s team match against Japan, which will played at 8:30pm Melbourne time.
The match will be a mix of both doubles and singles matches, with the Australians hoping to upstage the host nation and one of the favourites to take out the tournament.