|Anastasiya Verameyenka gets in the face of Styliani Kaltsidou|
By Mark Woods
The Belarus center was a towering presence, scoring a tournament-high 15 points, adding nine rebounds, and causing all sorts of problems for Lithuania in what would eventually become a 68-66 win that sent her into the semi-finals for the first time since the 2009 edition.
Back home, a seven-month-old had reason to be proud, even if she is far too young to have the remotest concept of what a basketball is. But one day little Sasha will surely learn of her mother's accomplishments and be open-eyed with amazement.
There is, by itself, a reason to be astonished by how quickly Verameyenka has managed to return fit and effective after missing both last year's FIBA World Championship for Women and the entire club season. Pregnancy alters the physiology, the muscles, the psyche. The path back to the top of competition, as many have previously found, is a delicate process.
"Of course, it's been hard," the 27-year-old admits. "Not just in game terms but in physical terms as well. But I already feel pretty good. In terms of my game shape, I'm trying to improve every time I'm on court. And I'm hearing that it's happening. Hopefully my best is coming."
|Verameyenka misses her daughter greatly but is willing to make the sacrifice for her job|
Life has altered, forever, for the Fenerbahce star. "The main thing that has changed is that I know now I have support back home behind me. I have a big family. So I need to play a bit better because I have someone to play for and to show an example to."
Married to a basketballer, Sasha is a genetic giant. She was 58 centimetres at birth, weighing four kgs. The DNA is obvious, she says. Their baby is huge.
"So maybe she will play one day too," Verameyenka smiles. "I hope so."
She will have a good example to follow. On Friday, Belarus will face Serbia for a place in Sunday's final. After earning bronze in 2007, victory would guarantee a medal above.
Yet, for all the mothers playing here - like Czech guard Veronika Bortelova, Great Britain's Steph Gandy or Hungary's Zsofia Fegyverneky - it means sacrifices. For Verameyenka, the summer has brought a lengthy parting from her first-born while crossing Europe with this goal in mind.
"My baby is at home with my husband and her grandparents," she reveals. "So she has a lot of nannies. But while I'm here, there's a lot of Skype happening. Viber. Photos. Videos.
"I miss her a lot. It's quite hard for me. But this is my job and my life so this is how it's supposed to be."