CHANGSHA, China – Gabe Norwood is now part of back-to-back runner-up finishes achieved by Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba Asia Championship.
And the latest one on Saturday night proved to be the most heartbreaking.
“This one hurts a lot more. If we could still go to Rio (Olympics) with the silver, I’d be happy. But that’s not the case,” said Norwood in the wake of the national team’s 78-67 loss to host China during the championship game.
Gilas also settled for runner-up honor behind Iran during the Fiba Asia meet in Manila two years ago, but nonetheless earned a berth to the Fiba World Cup last year in Spain.
[See Here's what awaits Gilas in Olympic qualifying tournament]
Unlike the 2013 meet where the top three finishers earn outright berths to the world championship, this year’s edition only has the champion team gaining automatic entry in next year’s Summer Games in Rio De Janeiro.
Gilas still has a shot at ending a 43-year absence from the Olympics as it punched a ticket to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) set middle of next year for its runner-up finish. It will be joined by semifinalists Iran and Japan.
But Norwood knows the path to Brazil has become even steeper.
“Now we have to go the hard way, that qualifying wildcard is in early July and it seems like it’s far away, but at the same time, it’s just around the corner,” said the high-leaping Rain or Shine wingman.
[See PBA reiterates support for Gilas, but Olympic qualifier poses major scheduling problem]
The qualifying tournament to be held in three key cities around the world is set July 4 to 10 next year, with the top three teams to emerge from the meet clinching the last Olympic berths at stake.
Norwood could only hope the national team would have an even longer time to prepare unlike in the Fiba Asia when Gilas had to cramp a six-week training to prepare for the tournament.
“We’ll see what happens. Hopefully we can prepare sooner than later, and we really have to go after it coz we’ve proven we’re world class,” said the 30-year-old Fil-Am.
“it’s not a step backward but its’ not the step forward that we wanted. Hopefully in the future we’ll have more time to prepare.”