Welcome to all from Latvia, where the 2009 EuroBasket Women is taking place. David Hein here from northern Latvia, actually a tiny village called Dikli about 20 kilometers from Valmiera, where I am busy covering Groups C and D.
Today is Sunday and the action will start this afternoon for what should be an entertaining tournament. There are plenty of story lines for those a bit unfamiliar with women’s basketball.
Russia look to defend their title from 2007 in Italy. Spain are hoping to finally climb back to the continental summit for their first European championship since 1993 after finishing second in 2007 following three straight third places before that.
The 2007 bronze medalists Belarus have loads of talent but will have the added pressure which comes along with high expectations. A help could be coach Anatoli Buyalski having worked with coach Rick Pitino on some of the intricacies of the defensive press.
Hosts Latvia also have loads of weapons and will have the home fans supporting them. One of the players in this tournament I’m really looking forward to seeing is Latvia’s Sabine Niedola. The power forward just turned 18 in April and it will be interesting to see how she performs in her first stint with the senior side. She dominated the U20s last summer as a 17-year-old.
A couple other stories to watch will be the Czech Republic looking to bounce back after taking fifth in 2007 as defending champions; how the restructuring of the federation will impact France; and how much the young talent of Serbia has grown up.
Here a bit about things up north in Latvia.
On the late night drive from Riga airport to Dikli, the main thing I noticed what that there was still sunlight. It was nearly 2 a.m. when I arrived in Dikli, but there was still light in the skies. There would have been even more but there were a lot of clouds, which made for a fascinating sky – with an orange sliver of light piercing through the dark clouds. My driver reminded me that in the summer this part of Latvia only really gets about 3 hours or so of total darkness. Definitely cool.
The place I’m staying in is the neo-Baroque Dikli Palace Hotel. The Manor was built for the German Baron P. von Wolf in 1896. Its grounds are very beautiful. This morning I woke up and saw two horses grazing at the small pond, which also has a small rowboat tantalizing waiting to be used. That will have to wait for another day.
The Vidzemes Olimpiskas Centrs gym in Valmiera is a nice facility. It seats about 1,200 people. There is also an ice hockey rink adjoining the basketball court. There is a small little sports bar overlooking the ice hockey rink and one of the cool features is the beer taps, which are surrounded by a basketball. Nice touch.
Well, that’s it for today. Will drop you some more notes tomorrow.