With tears in his eyes, Henrik Rodl fell into his co-trainers' arms and high-fived his players. It was done, Germany's Basketball player cheered, jumping up and down on the court and shouting out their joy. Germany, the glaring underdog, won the Olympic qualifying tournament in Split, Croatia, and punched its ticket to the Summer Games in Tokyo (starting 23. July) resolved. So in addition to the handball, soccer men and the two field hockey teams, there will be another German representative in the Olympic team competitions after all. It was a sensational qualification.
Embrace of Michael Jordan
For national coach Henrik Rodl, the tournament victory in Croatia also closed a circle. 1992 he was a player at the Olympics in Barcelona. In the end, there was seventh place and an unforgettable scene: the legendary "Dream Team" of the USA had taken the Germans apart with 111:68. Frozen with awe, Germany's players gazed down at their overmatched opponents as the king of the mighty strode up to one of their own. Michael Jordan exchanged a few words with Henrik Rodl and said goodbye with a hug. At the time, Rodl was still playing in the U.S. for the University of North Carolina – the university for which arguably the greatest basketball icon of all had previously also played.
So now Rodl will experience the Olympics once again. The Offenbach native is 52 years old and it is not yet clear what will happen next for him. His expiring contract has been extended by a few weeks until the end of the tournament as he reaches the Summer Games. But he is not concerned with the rumors about a successor, Rodl had said recently again and again and put the concentration on Tokyo in the foreground. Now he can approach and enjoy the tournament under the sign of the five rings. He was brought to this by a team that hardly anyone thought could do it. Six nations, only one ticket, plus the absence of NBA star Dennis Schroder, whose insurance cover could not be afforded by the German Basketball Association. But what began with a shaky 82:76 against Mexico, continued with a laborious 69:67 against Russia and reached a temporary climax in a strong 86:76 in the semifinals against Croatia, was crowned once again on Sunday. In the win against Brazil, NBA pro Moritz Wagner stood out with 28 points; the 24-year-old was also named the tournament's most valuable player.
Wagner swept away by emotion
In the end, however, it was a team performance that led to the greatest success in Rodl's tenure and also a kind of redemption for the desolate World Cup 2019 with the 18. Place was. There was center Johannes Voigtmann, who often initiated the offensive game with clever passes under his own basket. There was Wagner, who repeatedly swept the team along with his emotional outbursts. Captain Robin Benzing ran tirelessly across the court and took responsibility in decisive phases. As did point guard Maodo Lo, whose 29-point gala against Croatia had secured the team's place in the final. Joshiko Saibou, highly controversial for participating in lateral thinking demos, proved highly efficient on the court. They will all now fly to Tokyo. While they won't be playing there like Rodl once did against the legendary Dream Team. A dream come true nonetheless.