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Basketball - 15. December 2011.

CZE - Vesela's Journey

VALENCIA (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women) - Jana Vesela will never forget her first Olympic Games, back in 2004 when she and the Czech Republic were facing a talented Spanish side on the opening day of the competition in Athens.

The Czechs were just seconds away from winning the game when Laia Palau launched a very long shot from behind the arc and made it to force overtime.

Spain then won, 80-78.

"Yes," Vesela says to FIBA.com with a laugh.

"Normally, I don't remember anything from games but this, I remember.

"They beat us."

Palau and Vesela are now playing for the same team, Spanish giants Ros Casares in Valencia, for the fourth year in a row.

Vesela, once a member of the talented Brno squad that used to be among the best in the EuroLeague Women, has gone on a journey that has not only seen her compete and live in Spain but also the United States with the WNBA's Seattle Storm.

She was in the Storm squad that won the WNBA title in 2010.

"Four years," Vesela says of how long she has now competed in Spain.

"Time goes so fast. Everything is going so quickly.

"But I like it here in Spain because there is always a good team here and the life is amazing. The people are nice.

"I like the park (River Turia) in the middle of the city (Valencia), the museums and the opera.

"When it's nice, I go there for walks and the center is nice, the small streets - the barrio Carmen."

By leaving the Czech Republic and playing in different leagues, Vesela has broadened her horizons on the court.

The game in America, she says, is very different.

"I think every year, I get more experience," she says.

"Especially last year, I went to the WNBA and I learned so many things and changed.

"In America, their basketball is so aggressive and you have to be strong, both mentally and physically.

"So, I learned this and many things - there are a lot of differences."

Vesela did have an experience of a lifetime in 2010 after the WNBA Finals, when she and the Czech Republic hosted the FIBA World Championship for Women and against most people's expectations, reached the Final.

The Czechs had won the EuroBasket title in 2005 with Vesela and she had also celebrated a EuroLeague Women triumph with Brno, but nothing matched the experience of a silver-medal winning campaign on home soil at the World Championship and playing in front of huge crowds and on national television.

"In the months after, yes," she says, when asked if the sport became more popular in the Czech Republic because of that tournament.

"But now, it's the same (as it was).

"They say there are no games on TV."

Vesela admits she never gets tired of playing for the Czech Republic.

"The national team for me, I always like to play with the Czech players," she says.

"If we qualify for the Olympics and go for a third time and go to London, it would be amazing. I'd really like to go.

"For women's basketball in the Czech Republic, we have a good generation and for the new generation, this would be good. The people in the country would see that we are at a high level and that we can compete at the highest level against the best teams."

The Czechs, Turkey and Argentina are all hoping to host the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women.

The FIBA Central Board will decide where the event is to be held when they meet in Madrid on December 10-11.

FIBA

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