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The drawing for the Women’s Pre-Olympic Tournament, which will be held from June 9th-15th in Madrid, has paired up Spain with the national teams from Brazil and the islands of Fiji in Group C. The top two from this group will face off with the teams of Group D, made up of teams from Belarus, Cuba and Taiwan.
By chance, Spain has been paired up with Brazil, a top force in women’s basketball (4th in the FIBA rankings), and with lesser-known Fiji, who placed third in the Pacific Championship. Brazil placed third in the 2007 North and South American Tournament behind USA and Cuba, and has well known players who have played in Spain such as sisters Luz and Erika de Souza, as well as Iziane Castro. Fiji, on the other hand, is new to playing in international competitions and is able to play in the Pre-Olympic Tournament since Australia and New Zealand automatically qualified for the Olympics (Australia for winning the world championship, and New Zealand for placing second in the Pacific Tournament). The opening game of the tournament will be Spain vs. Fiji.
The groups have been set in the following categories:
Group A: Latvia, Japan, and Senegal
Group B: The Czech Republic, Argentina, and Angola ?Group C: Spain, Brazil and Fiji?
Group D: Belarus, Cuba and Taiwan
The top two in each group will go on to the quarterfinals in which those from Group C will play against the Group D teams of Belarus, Cuba and Taiwan.
The four winners of this round will directly classify for the Olympics in Peking. The fifth team to classify will be decided by semifinal and final games played by those who lost in the quarterfinal round.
The tournament drawing event was opened by the Secretary of State for Athletics, Jaime Lissavetzsky, who felt that Spain will surely win one of the five slots to play in Peking in 2008. “This Pre-Olympic tournament recognizes women’s athletics. Spanish basketball is on everybody’s minds; not only are fans thinking of our teams, society is as well,” added the Secretary of State who also thanked the city of Madrid for its willingness: “Madrid is a hit.”
Lissavetzky gave way to the president of the Spanish Basketball Federation, José Luis Sáez, who mentioned that Madrid would surely be an ideal place for the organization of this event: “We are looking at another historical moment in Spanish and international basketball. All of the players and members of the women’s teams who have won medals in the last four European championship tournaments are in my heart.” He also thanked the support of the institutions represented by Jaime Lissavetzky and Manuel Cobo, and said he was convinced that, “After being named sub-champion of Europe, the women’s national team will go to the Olympics and make Spain proud once again.
The vice mayor of Madrid Manuel Cobo closed the act by welcoming al present and affirming that, “Madrid will once again host a top level athletics event which reinforces our possibilities of being chosen as the sight for the Olympic games in 2016. When the Secretary of Athletics mentioned that basketball was on everybody’s minds he was referring to the way everyone felt in EuroBasket. We will feel the same way in the Pre-Olympic games. The women’s national team is on the right path and I hope that all who go to see the Pre-Olympic games enjoy the city and can see the evolution and change that has happened here in the last few years. We are going to continue to go with
athletics and with basketball,” said Cobo.
The draw, presented by the FIBA Press Director, Marcos Beltrá from Spain, and carried out by the Athletics Director of the same international organization, Lubomir Kotleba, was seen live on the International Basketball Federation’s web site (www.fiba.com) and on the Spanish Basketball Federation’ s web site ( www.febtv.com ) from the Institute of Training and Studies of the local government Madrid. The national women’s team coach, Evaristo Pérez, and four members of the team, Amaya Valdemoro, Elisa Aguilar, Ana Montañana and Isa Sánchez were present at the event, along with Helen Luz, a Brazilian player from the Cadi La Seu d'Urgel team of the women’s league, and Carolina Mújica and Monica Messa, two ex-international players from Spain who were on the 1993 national team and got the gold medal in the European tournament.
The five teams which win this valuable Olympic classification at the tournament will join the seven teams that are already set to go to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing: China (the host team), Australia (the World Champs), Mali (African Champions), USA (Champion team of North and South America), Korea (Asian Champion), Russia (European Champion), and New Zealand (Pacific Champion).