No Slowing Down For Evergreen Tornikidou

08 October 2008

Elena Tornikidou is 43 years young.

And that is very good news for Ros Casares, the team she is playing vital minutes for again this season.

Tornikidou has vast experience, with the highlight of her career the gold medal she won as a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States team at the 1992 Olympics.

And physically, many observers believe she still plays as hard and well as she did in her twenties and thirties.

"If I wasn´t up to it," she said, "I would no longer be playing, but I feel right now that I am able to do it."

The 1.85m Tornikidou, who was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, averaged 8.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game last season for Ros Casares as they won the Spanish title and reached the quarter-finals of the EuroLeague Women.

She spoke to Basketball World News on behalf of FIBA Europe after helping her team win the Supercopa Femenina.

FIBA Europe: Congratulations on winning the Spanish Supercup. You have won so many titles in your career. Was this one just as sweet as the others?

Tornikidou: I think a sportsman or woman never gets tired of winning titles. It´s great to have started the campaign winning the Spanish SuperCup.

FIBA Europe: Tell us about the changes at Ros Casares since the end of last season.

Tornikidou: Half of the team is new and we also have a new coach. Our way of playing is different. I think we are adapting very well to that style of  play, which is fast and applying pressure all the time. As we are many players, we really want to play fast for 40 minutes and I think we are doing it well. Of course, we make errors, which is normal, but so far, so good, and I believe we will improve.

FIBA Europe: Why is this team better suited to play more pressure defense for the entire game?

Tornikidou: "This year we have a complete team. We can´t play a fast game for 40 minutes if you don´t rotate the team and we have the players to do so. We can maintain that rhythm by relying on all of the players. The team works well that way."

FIBA Europe: So the arrivals of Spanish internationals Amaya Valdemoro and Anna Montanana, and the likes of Jana Vesela and Ivana Vecerova of the Czech Republic and Roneeka Hodges have strengthened an already powerful team. What can you tell us about the reinforcements?

Tornikidou: "I think the club has done a very good job. They have brought very good players, complete and experienced players, but more importantly, team players and that is very good for us."

FIBA Europe: The EuroLeague Women title is still a pending subject for Ros Casares. How confident are you and your teammates that this will be the year that sees Ros at the top of Europe?

Tornikidou: "The EuroLeague is always complicated. This year we have high expectations. Our aim is to reach the Final Four and after that, it's down to luck. There are Russian teams that are stronger but if we work well, who knows? The important thing is to get to that point, the Final Four. And from then on, you can reach the final as we did two years ago."

FIBA Europe: Elena, you are the most senior player in the Liga Femenina and the EuroLeague. How do you feel as you approach another campaign?

Tornikidou: "I don´t know if I´m as strong as I was last year, but I am working the same as the rest of my team-mates and I hope to be in good form. If I wasn´t up to it, I would no longer be playing, but I feel right now that I am able to do it. Of course, you always have the word retirement in your mind but then that thought disappears and you think to yourself, ‘I will continue for a further year'."

FIBA Europe: You mentioned that one of the major changes this summer has been the arrival of coach Ismael Canto to the Ros Casares bench. What can you tell us about him?

Tornikidou: "The coach, Ismael Canto, is new. He comes from men´s basketball (30 years experience in the men´s game). I like him because he has very clear ideas. He plays a different style of basketball and rotates the team and I think it´s a good combination for Ros Casares. We don´t know him that that well as we have only been with him since the summer but in one month that he has taken over the team, I see the group happy."

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