Learning From Disappointment

10. Ilona KORSTIN (Russia). 5. Evgeniya BELYAKOVA (Russia). 13. Anna PETRAKOVA (Russia)
 Anna Petrakova (right) with Russia teammates Ilona Korstin and Evgeniya Belyakova at the London Olympics

By Jeff Taylor

Anna Petrakova has had some time to digest her summer with Russia's national team, one that began with high hopes and ended just one victory away from the Olympic podium.

Coming off a season in which she had been a leading light for a Dynamo Kursk team that captured the EuroCup Women title with a two-legged triumph over Kayseri Kaski spor in the Final, a campaign in which she averaged 16.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists, Petrakova was given a chance to show her potential on a much bigger stage.

Overall, she played well as a reserve in London, averaging 6.1 points and 3.3 rebounds.

The power forward shot 37.5 percent from long range.

She more than justified her inclusion in the team, and would appear to be a certainty to play next year in France when Russia try to defend their EuroBasket Women 2011 title.

Before then, Petrakova will fight for minutes in a talent-rich UMMC Ekaterinburg squad.

Despite the bronze-medal game defeat to Australia, Petrakova says that on the whole, she will remember the good things about her first year with the senior team.

"Of course, personally I think it was a great experience," Petrakova said to Basketball World News.

"But I'm still upset that we lost (83-74 to Australia in the bronze-medal clash)."

Petrakova had her ups and downs at the Olympics.

There is nothing quite like going up against the best teams in the world to make a player better.

Petrakova went up against great athletes, and had also to cope with the mental aspect of the game like never before.

13. Anna Petrakova (Dynamo Kursk)
Petrakova, who led Dynamo Kursk to the EuroCup Women title last year, is mentally prepared for a different role at UMMC Ekaterinburg in the new season

UMMC, one of the favorites to win the EuroLeague, should benefit from Petrakova's summer.

"Hopefully now, I've adapted to the pressure, I've adapted to the responsibility," she said.

"The Olympics gives you the experience of playing under pressure and learning how to deal with it."

Petrakova thinks Russia, which had to play without their veteran center Maria Stepanova because of a knee injury that she suffered at the EuroLeague Women Final Eight, will be better for the hard games they played in London.

"We missed a presence in the paint, a solid presence," Petrakova said.

"Maria, you could count on her 100% of the time."

No Stepanova meant more playing time for Natalya Vieru and Nadezhda Grishaeva in the low post.

"After this Olympics, we're going to step up to the next level, I'm sure," Petrakova said.

Petrakova is putting all of her attention on UMMC Ekaterinburg right now.

But to compete at the Olympics for the first time, and to fight for medals, isn't something that one forgets quickly.

Russia have yet to announce who will coach the team at next year's EuroBasket Women, with Boris Sokolovskiy on shaky ground after failing to reach the podium.

It remains to be seen if Russia will contend for medals next year in France.

The combative spirit that had been a hallmark of the Russian teams in the past wasn't as evident in London.

"We have to stick together no matter what," Petrakova said.

"We have to support each other no matter what.

"We have to fight harder.

"We fight, but I think we have to get to the point where every game is life or death."

France will start as favorites as the EuroBasket Women hosts, both there are a host of teams to challenge them.

Russia should find it difficult to survive the opening group phase as they will go up against Spain, Sweden and Italy.

"It's not going to be easy," Petrakova said.

"Maybe this team got used to winning every medal.

"Maybe everyone thought we were a lock. We didn't pull that off.

"The biggest lesson is you have to fight to the end."



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