Olympic Squad Experience Helps Likhtarovich, Belarus

13 July 2008
Not playing a single minute in a tournament can still bring on loads of experience. And that was the case for Belarus guard Tatsiana Likhtarovich at this summer's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women.

Likhtarovich has been one of main reasons why Belarus started the U20 European Championship for Women with two straight victories heading into their Group D showdown against Spain on Sunday in Sulmona.

And Likhtarovich admits her time with the Bellarus senior national team at the tournament in Madrid in June helped her immensely for the U20 event in Italy.

"I did not play. But at least I saw the level of the team and how they play. And it was excellent to see teams like Brazil and the others. It was all new for me so it was great to see those teams," Likhtarovich said after Belarus's 73-67 victory over Belgium, in which she collected 22 points and 10 rebounds.

"The practice there really helped me get prepared for this event."

She added that it was an honour to be part of the team that qualified for the Olympics.

And center Katsiaryna Sharkova added: "For us (the senior national team) are a great example of how to play the game. We try as much as we can to be the same as them."

While Likhtarovich was on the team in Madrid, her U20 team-mate in Italy Alena Novikava participated in the training camp for that tournament. And the combination of Likhtarovich and Novikava have the U20 Belarus side hoping for big things just as the senior team which spectacularly collected the bronze medal at the 2007 EuroBasket Women - their first ever Division A tourney.

"We really tried to prepare a lot for this championship. We had a target to go up. And I hope we will continue to win as much as we can," Likhtarovich said.

And she believes the key to the Belarus success thus far has been their strong spirit.

"You can see how all the bench was triyng to support everyone else. We are all there for each other. If you didn't do something good on defence then your partner will pick it up for you. And that has been the key. Everybody is ready to give 100 percent, and it makes our team only better."

After two wins, Belarus have already advanced to the qualifying round and have good chances of improving on their 11th placed showing from last summer's debut in the U20 A Division.

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