Beijing can wait, Opals enjoy the spoils - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Beijing can wait, Opals enjoy the spoils

By Steve Jancetic 26/09/2006 08:32:14 PM Comments (0)

Forget Beijing, the Australian Opals just want to enjoy the moment after arriving home to a hero's welcome following their gold medal-winning performance at the women's basketball world championships in Brazil.

Having captured Australia's first ever senior gold medal at a world championships or Olympic Games with a 91-74 win over Russia in the final, the Opals basked in the glory on Tuesday as a crowd of around 200 gathered at Sydney Airport to welcome them.

Thoughts quickly turned to the Beijing Olympics in two years' time but Opals skipper Lauren Jackson said the 2008 Games were the furthest thing from her mind as she looks forward to a couple of months of rest and relaxation.

"When you win a gold medal it doesn't come around very often for us in basketball," Jackson said.

"Obviously the Russians and the Americas are such huge superpowers, for us to do this, right now, we're just focusing on wow - we've won a world championship.

"The process is definitely going to come, we're definitely going to work really hard to get the gold in Beijing but at the moment we're just going to focus on ourselves.

"I'm just so happy that we won the world championships - for this week I'm just focusing on having fun. I haven't been home in six months, (I'm) going to see my friends, have a party.

"I'll think about Beijing in a week."

But for coach Jan Stirling, the marathon plane journey from Sao Paulo to Sydney has given her plenty of time to start that thought process.

Stirling said the nucleus of the Beijing team would come from the group which went to Brazil, with doubts over a few of the veterans including Tully Bevilaqua and Jenny Whittle.

"Another journey will start now, a two-year campaign will start now so there's a lot of hard work to go," Stirling said.

"One of the things you can't do in sport is become complacent ... but we're definitely capable of (gold in Beijing).

"I think probably about eight of them might back up, a few of the older ones might not go on, it's a bit hard to call.

"We have our junior world championships next year and I expect a couple of those might sneak into our core group."

One thing Stirling is hopeful of is a better preparation for the team than the one they had before the world championship success.

The side had only one practice match before the tournament, a seven-point loss to the then world champion US side, but Stirling said the resilience within the group got them through.

"I don't think we'd like to go through that process again if we were in an Olympics and had that limited time," Stirling said.

"I remember (point guard Kristi Harrower) and Lauren saying to me 'we played terrible, we were really terrible and we only lost by seven.

"As a coach I'm thinking how much work have we got to do and I remember Kristi and Loz looking at me and saying 'hey mate, we're going to be okay.' That kind of reassured me."

The squad will now disband ahead of the WNBL season, though Jackson will not take part in the Australian season as she rests her weary body ahead of a stint in Korea starting in December.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2023 AAP

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