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Yao Ming has returned from injury to compete for the first time in 5 months just weeks ahead of the Olympic Games in his home country. However in the same week the groups for the Olympic basketball competition have been announced and Yao’s China team will face an extremely strong line up to qualify for the quarter finals.

Yao made his come back at a tournament in Hangzhou where China narrowly lost to one of their rivals in Group B, Angola. The other teams to make up Group B will be the USA, Germany, Greece and Spain – four of the six will make it through to the next round.

The Olympic basketball event will be kicked off by the huge clash between China and USA on 10th August. Bob would hate to speculate on how much those tickets could fetch…

Teaching in a middle school in China there was one sport that clearly dominated above all others, and it was not ping pong! The baggy shorts, the rows of hoops in the playground, the English names like Kobe and LeBron; basketball may as well be China’s national sport. And Yao is their greatest star – huge in physique, fame and respect Yao’s popularity is rivalled only by that of Liu Xiang within China and his return will have doubled the price of the China v USA game alone.

The update on Yao’s injury from China’s head coach Jonas Kazlausk is:

“Yao still cannot play a full game because of his foot injury. I exchange information about his injury with his doctor as much as I can. I hope he’ll take the full recovery at the Olympics.”

Of the Olympic Group B challenge Yao also talks a good game (via China Daily):

“I am very sure we can beat Angola. We lost to them in Hangzhou, but we were not in our best shape last week,” he said. “Their players are not very competitive, and I don’t think they are able to pose us any real threat at the Games.

“We are not afraid of Germany either. Yi Jianlian has improved tremendously after playing one season in the NBA and he can limit Nowitzki. And I can take care of Chris Kaman.”

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