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Basketball - 17. February 2008.

LAT – Latvian women want to seize Olympic chance

MOSCOW (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women) - Latvia didn’t win a medal at last year’s EuroBasket, but this team won over a lot of new fans with its beautiful, at times gritty style of basketball.

Those fans will be keeping their fingers crossed that Latvia will claim one of the five spots for the Beijing Games still up for grabs at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in June.

“It will be difficult, that’s for sure,” said Anete Jekabsone-Zogota, who was last week named FIBA Europe Women’s Player of the Year.

Jekabsone-Zogota was outstanding for Latvia last year at the EuroBasket when they reached the semi-finals, and she’s also excelling for her club side Dynamo Moscow in the EuroLeague Women.

There won’t be much time, though, between the end of the club season and the qualifying tournament in Madrid.

“It (the tournament) will start right after the season and we won’t be rested,” Jekabsone-Zogota said.

“We will only have three weeks to prepare for it, so hopefully everybody will be in shape and ready.

“We’ll be playing against Japan and Senegal. I think both these teams are quick and can shoot. But this is Latvia’s dream and a chance and I’ll be hoping for the best.”

Don’t think that Latvia’s players will be putting themselves under a lot of pressure. That is one of the team’s strengths, to play with confidence.

“I am sure we will have a lot more fun in Madrid during the (FIBA) Olympic Qualifying Tournament,” Jekabsone-Zogota said.

“I know people are already starting to book hotel rooms for the event.”

How important is the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women?

Just imagine if Latvia do claim one of the five places on offer for Beijing.

“Words can’t describe this,” Jekabsone-Zogota said. “I probably would cry. The entire country would love us!”


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