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Basketball - 05. July 2007.

ESP - Aguilar makes most of switch from soccer to basketball

Instead, on the advice of her mother, Aguilar turned her focus to the other roundball sport while at school and hasn't looked back since.

The Ros Casares star is a vital member of Spain's national side, whom she will link up with later this summer.

The playmaker is currently in the Liga Femenina championship series with Ros against Perfumerias Avenida.

Aguilar, 30, recently sat down with Jeff Taylor.

FIBA: Elisa, Spain's women have put on quite a few thrills since 2003 when they came from behind in the bronze medal game against Poland at the EuroBasket Women in Greece and won to snatch the third Olympic qualifying place for Europe that was up for grabs. They won the bronze two years later in Turkey as well. What is keeping your team from capturing the gold?

Aguilar: "Well, the countries like Russia, the French or Lithuania - they have an advantage with post players while in Spain, we don't have tall players and I think this is why we've been a step behind them. But hopefully in Italy, we'll do our best and try to get that gold medal."

FIBA: Often during Spain games, spectators see the women get so fired up that they exhort the crowd with shouts of "Vamos!". It's not just one or two players, but everyone. Where does this come from?

Aguilar: "I think it's in our character, our personalities. In Spain, we call it `furia Espanola' (a fighting spirit). When you don't have a star, or a great player like a (Russia's Maria Stepanova), or a great post player, you need to do something else. We want to win something, to achieve our goal, so we have to fight until the last moment no matter what. This is a good philosophy that we follow."

FIBA: We have to ask you about the forthcoming Olympics. How are you looking at the chance to qualify for China?

Aguilar: "The Olympics, I think, is the best tournament that a player can appear in. We have a great opportunity in Italy to make it to Peking (Beijing) Olympic Games. The only thing we need to do is to get to Italy and finish in the top five positions (for the additional qualifying tournament) because I think the gold or silver medal is going to be very difficult for us. So we have to give everything. It's a dream. We've already been in Athens, but to play in our second Olympic Games would be the best thing in the world."

FIBA: This has been quite a year for your club side Ros Casares, winning the Copa de la Reina and reaching the final of the EuroLeague Women. What is it like competing in Europe?

Aguilar: "The Euroleague is a chance for you to prove yourself against the best. Also, when I play for my country, it's the best feeling that I ever have."

FIBA: This has been the Year of Women's Basketball, a FIBA Europe initiative aimed at promoting the game. Has it had much of an impact at Valencia?

Aguilar: "In Valencia, from five years ago until now, there have been a lot of improvements. We've been on TV, in the press, the radios are calling us every week or weekend. This is important for us. In Spain, the most  important sport is soccer and from there, we are fighting handball and volleyball. If you are a winner, the fans will follow you more."

FIBA: How did you get into basketball?

Aguilar: "I always played soccer. I had three brothers who played professionally, my uncle, too. So in my house, there has always been a soccer ball. So when I started to play soccer at this point, it was a man's sport and my mother said, `No way, Elisa. You have to find something else in which you are not always playing against boys all the time'. At my school, we had basketball. So this is why I started it. My dream would be to play professional soccer, for sure."

FIBA: What does it mean for you to be able to play basketball at the highest level, with Spanish giants Ros Casares and for the national team?

Aguilar: "I always think we are lucky people. You do the thing that you like, and you get paid good money. And also you have the opportunity to travel, to have different experiences in different countries and I don't think there are too many people who have this opportunity."

Jeff Taylor
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