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Basketball - 21. November 2011.

USA - A tough road to London for Candace

EKATERINBURG (Olympics) - There was a cringe-worthy moment for all basketball fans, but especially those in America, who tuned in to watch UMMC Ekaterinburg's fourth-quarter horror show at Ros Casares in the EuroLeague Women on Wednesday night.

While Russian powerhouse UMMC were in the process of blowing a 12-point lead over the last 8:33 of the frame and losing 60-52, their star player, USA international Candace Parker, fell awkwardly to the floor and didn't get up.

Instead, Parker reached out for her right knee and grimaced.

She eventually stood up with the help of UMMC trainers and walked gingerly to the bench.

Much to the relief of everyone, including her husband, Shelden Williams, and their daughter, Lailaa, who were inside the arena watching, Parker reentered the contest a few minutes later.

"I'm okay,” Parker said to FIBA.com after the game.

“I just landed funny.

“It scared me, but I'm good."

There are sure to be more tough moments in the weeks ahead as Parker tries to hit peak fitness, and form.

"It all comes with getting back into the swing of things,” Parker said.

“It's only been four or five weeks, so it should be all right."

Parker learned early on about injuries.

She tore her left MCL in high school but recovered and won back-to-back NCAA titles with the Tennessee Volunteers and was widely recognized as the best player in the land.

The 25-year-old played the first seven games of the 2011 WNBA campaign with the Los Angeles Sparks but in late June, tore the lateral meniscus in her right knee.

She didn't return to action until mid-August.

After her last WNBA game of this year on September 6, she took time off before returning to Russia to play for Ekaterinburg.

Parker knows that UMMC Ekaterinburg have a lot of hard games both in the Russian league, and the EuroLeague Women.

She wants to help Ekat win the European title that has proved elusive the past several seasons.

Are the Olympics in the back of her mind?

“A little bit, we always look forward to the Olympics, but right now, we’re trying to focus on getting things right here,” she said.

There are many games and long flights on the calendar for Parker before she can really even think about London.

“It’s always been that way,” she said.

“It’s all I’ve ever known. It’s no different than the last time.”

In terms of her career, how important is it for Parker that she and the USA reach the top of the podium in London?

“It’s very important,” she said.

“Once you experience, you never want anything less. With us winning it in Beijing, that was the most storybook, Cinderella finish so I think that we definitely want to repeat on that.”

There is also a potential first for Parker.

“I’ve never been to London,” she said.

Jeff Taylor


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