By Sophie Drew
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's women's basketball team are hoping the decision to move an Olympic qualifying tournament from China to Serbia due to the coronavirus outbreak will help them secure a breakthrough ticket to Tokyo.
The International Basketball Federation announced the switch from Foshan on Tuesday due to health concerns over the fast-spreading virus that was first detected in the city of Wuhan and has now killed 170 people in China.
No British team has previously qualified for an Olympic basketball tournament, other than as host nation.
The women's team were fourth at last July's Eurobasket tournament, however, in Britain's best ever performance in the continent's showpiece event.
They will play China, South Korea and European champions Spain in the Feb. 6-9 qualifier in Belgrade, with the top three teams in a tough group sure of an Olympic berth.
"Our main problem was the jet lag; it usually affects a lot; you have to change your schedule and that affects their performance," head coach Chema Buceta told Reuters at a squad event on Thursday.
"Now we will be able to practice with more intensity, and we will have an extra day to train."
The Spaniard said it would still be tough against such seasoned competitors.
"These teams, like Korea and China, are very tough, with lots of experience of travelling around and playing," he said.
"It would have been better for them to stay over there, but I don’t think it will affect them too much."
Buceta said his team had already shown their potential and would stay focused.
"Our road to this stage was difficult. We had to win very difficult games just to qualify for the finals of the women’s EuroBasket, and then after that we had to reach the fourth position that gave us the spot to play now," he said.
"I don’t think we have any extra pressure in this moment. We are enthusiastic about qualifying for the Olympic Games. I think we have positive desire rather than, let’s say, negative pressure."
(Editing by Alan Baldwin and Ed Osmond)