For Gdynia center Margo Dydek, the EuroLeague Women final four offers a special challenge that she has yet to conquer in what has been, until now, a great career. Honours have included a European Championship title in 1999 and a trip to the 2000 Olympics.
But in the EuroLeague Women, Dydek has never quite been able to mount the summit. This is her 5th trip to the Final Four with 3 teams. Her first Final Four was in TS Wiszla in 1994. In 1995 she made it with French side Valenciennes, in 1998 with Pool Getafe Madrid and in 2002 with Gdynia. She has finished in 2nd place on 2 occasions, but never won a title.
“For all athletes it’s important to win,” said Dydek today after Gdynia’s first practice session. ”I was close with Madrid and also with Gdynia. It seems like the home team has the advantage but we will focus on our goals and try to win”.
|Dydek at last year's European Championship|
For the 213 cm center there is the added motivation of a painful European Championships last September in Greece. Poland looked all set for the bronze medal and a trip to this summer’s Olympics, after leading Spain by 15 points in the final quarter of the 3rd place game. Spain managed to turn the game and win it, leaving Poland devastated.
Of course, opponents Brno have 4 of the starting 5 of the Czech Republic national team, which won the silver medal at the European Championships. They also defeated Poland along the way, a factor which Dydek maintains is not a source of further motivation.
“For us it’s different than with the national team as we (Gdynia) have 3 players who play for Poland. For Gdynia we have more international players and a different mentality,” she says.
The clubs have already met twice this season and shared the honours at one game apiece. Brno beat Gdynia in Poland by a comfortable margin, 69:77. In Brno, Gdynia pulled out a final second victory, 63:65. Whether those games will influence the semi-final is debatable and for Dydek all of the games will be “competitive”.
“For us it will depend on how we play and if we can stay healthy,” she says. “If we play good defense we can win. Brno has no real star who can score 30 points, but they have a very good team which is typical from the Czech Republic.”
Gdynia’s goals were set clearly at the start of the season and Dydek says they are “hungry” to do well. There is no doubt that a win would do wonders for a team that has been dominant in Poland (5 championships in 5 years) but has yet to make the final step in European competition.
“No team in Poland, men or women, has won a European title. It will be great if we win and for the future we want to also host the Final Four and build on our success,” says Dydek.
Gdynia has been there before in 2002, but lost to Valenciennes in the final. This time around there is a different team, but the goal remains the same – to become EuroLeague Women champions.