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Basketball - 25. October 2013.

KAZ - Kazakhstan seek to continue momentum

BANGKOK (FIBA Asia Championship for Women/FIBA World Championship for Women) - Having received a stroke of good fortune by being unexpectedly handed a place in Level 1 of the FIBA Asia Championship for Women, Kazakhstan are out to make the most of their opportunity in Bangkok.

Their pending participation back at the elite level for the first time in almost two decades provides a specific boost for women's basketball in the Central Asian nation. And a strong performance would further fuel the current push to elevate the profile of the sport in the country.

Able to step out in the top flight for the first time since the 1990s due to the suspension of Lebanon which opened up a vacancy to fill, the Kazakhstan players and staff will be well aware of the wider importance of their efforts.

Kazakhstan's National Basketball Federation, Kazakhstan's National Welfare Fund and leading senior figures such as the legendary Valeriy Tikhonenko have been doing everything they can to push the future vision for the sport - not only via the senior national teams, but at club level too, through the ambitious Astana men's team which competes in the VTB United League.

The recent participation of the men's national team at the FIBA Asia Championship in Manila, Philippines helped put basketball even closer to the centre of the sporting radar in Kazakhstan.

And, if the women could pull off a shock and reach the last four of the competition or even get onto the podium and complete a real fairytale by grabbing a place at the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women in Turkey, it would certainly help the wider cause.

Head coach Evgeniy Ovsyannikov has admitted that his team's inclusion at the event in the Thai capital came as a shock and he is fully aware of the challenge ahead, with his side the lowest ranked team of the six who will play at the top level.

But with a capable roster of players, almost half of which is made up from last year's domestic championship winners Irtysh and includes stand-out performer Anna Vinokurova, they can't be discounted.

Kazakhstan open their campaign in Bangkok against Japan on Sunday.

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