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OLYMPIC GAMES 2008 / BEST OF OUR BLOG

Bronze as good as gold for Hammon

August 24, 2008|Helene Elliott; Randy Harvey

Becky Hammon never intended to make a political statement. She simply wanted to play basketball in the Olympics.

And despite the criticism she absorbed by deciding to play for Russia, Hammon said Saturday that the joy of helping her new team unite to win the bronze medal outweighed all the negatives.

"For me, I've worked just as hard for this medal as a gold one, so to me it might as well be," Hammon said after scoring a team-high 22 points to lead Russia to a 94-81 victory over China at Wukesong Arena.

"I wanted to be a positive leader for them and encourage them and just help them believe in themselves. . . . I think if you watched us just a few weeks ago, we didn't have much belief in ourselves.

"I try to do whatever I can to help these girls, and I'm looking forward to spending more time with them and explain some things to them a little bit more on the basketball court and just for them to get to know me a little better on the court."

They know enough to recognize her value.

"She is a very important player," teammate Ilona Korstin said. "I am very glad she's on the team. Now she's a real part of our Russian team and she helps us a lot during the game. I hope she will continue to play for the Russian national team."

Hammon left that open, saying only that she planned to return to Texas today and finish out the WNBA season with San Antonio.

"I never doubted my decision to go. I knew I was here for the right reasons," she said.

"Russia and the United States, everyone knows the history there, but we've got to move forward and get past that. You can only hold a grudge for so long. The last time I checked we all bleed red here, so we're all just people, and whether you grow up in the States or in Russia, we all have the same needs for success.

"So to me it's been about uniting people and making friendships on a small level. And if I can impact these girls in a positive way, who's to say they can't go back and influence a nation?"

-- Helene Elliott

My Olympic ratings: Barcelona is No. 1

The Olympics were exceptional in Barcelona, but that wasn't all that was going on there in the summer of '92. It was a 17-day festival, uninterrupted by controversy, politics or sleep.

The plazas of Barcelona were filled day and night -- young people, old people, anyone who could get there to bask in the joy.

I don't exaggerate when I say it was one of the best summers of the century. South Africa competed for the first time since 1960 after the repeal of apartheid. East and West Germany were reunited as one team. The Soviet Union had unraveled, but athletes from many of the former republics competed together one last time as the Unified Team. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia competed under their own flags.

There were many outstanding sporting events. One stands out. For the first time, a black African woman, Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia, won a gold medal, finishing first in the 10,000 meters. A white South African, Elana Meyer, finished second.

They ran the victory lap hand in hand.

-- Randy Harvey

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