Gold medal-winning US player Dawn Staley tells us why she'll be at the match
Dawn Staley is one of the most accomplished and decorated USA women's basketball players in history. She holds 10 gold medals and one bronze from her time playing world-class basketball, including Olympic gold medals in 1996, 2000 and 2004.
Now retired, Dawn is in the UK to promote the first-ever WNBA basketball game to be played in Europe, when the Atlanta Dream play Team GB women on May 29 at the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester.
Women's basketball in the UK is on the up: it was recently announced that Team GB's women have been given an automatic spot in the Olympic basketball tournament for the first time ever, and will be competing at London 2012.
We caught up with Dawn Staley to find out a bit more about her career and how she sees basketball developing in the UK.
Q: How did you get into basketball?
Dawn: 'I started playing just in my neighbourhood in the playground; I played in youth programmes, and at elementary school. Then I continued playing when I went to junior high and also through high school. Those were the beginning years and then I found an opportunity to play at college and then I got into USA basketball. Where I lived, all the guys played basketball; there were a lot of guys who played near me but not very many girls. I guess we were just feeding our competition and our competitiveness.'
Q: What do you love about basketball over other sports?
Dawn: 'I think what I love about basketball is the various levels that you can play at and there's always somewhere to progress to - when I was in elementary school I wanted to play in junior high and then I wanted to move onto high school games and into college competitions. After that there are always plans for Olympic teams. So I liked the fact that you could compete at different levels and achieve many successes in the sport.'
Q: What does your training programme consist of?
Dawn: 'Now that I'm retired, I work out to keep fit but when I was playing at my highest level I worked out between 6 and 8 hours each day. I would do different type of trainings - weights, individual workouts; I would work out with someone or on individual skills and play 5-on-5 basketball. It's a full-time job; you train as much as you can.'
Q: What effect do you think Atlanta Dream's trip to Manchester will have on UK women's basketball?
Dawn: 'I think it's a great thing, the fact that little girls will now be exposed to a different type of basketball, a different game. They'll see women play with a different type of athleticism and skill set that will help them strive to do better in their workouts. Hopefully they will learn some of the skills and techniques at a young age that a lot of people from other countries won't be exposed to and won't get to see in person.'
Q: Are you looking forward to London 2012 and which teams are likely to be in the running for a medal in basketball?
Dawn: 'You've got to consider the USA, Russia, Australia - those are probably the three teams that come to mind for medals. Team GB have their work cut out for them; I don't know if they're going to be a medal contender, but they will be a contender to win a few basketball games in preparation by playing Team USA and the Atlanta Dream. They can take advantage of this over other teams who haven't had the opportunity to play in that type of competition.'
The WNBA's Atlanta Dream will play the Great Britain women's basketball team at the MEN Arena on Sunday 29 May. Tickets are available from www.men-arena.com, www.ticketmaster.co.uk or 0844 847 8000
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