ATHENS, Greece -- The Russians ended a 12-year medal drought
in women's basketball Saturday, and fittingly, they were led by a
player who stayed with the national team the entire time.
Elena Baranova and the Russians beat Brazil 71-62 in the
third-place game at the Athens Games.
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the only other medal the
Russian women won was the gold in 1992, competing as the
Commonwealth of Independent States, or the Unified Team. There was
a fifth-place finish in Atlanta and then a sixth four years later
Still, Baranova fell short of her goals.
"This is not about me, only the team,'' Baranova said.
"Because I preferred to win a gold or nothing. For me, I like gold
more than bronze. It's not the medal that I wanted.''
Baranova and her teammates didn't make it easy in Athens,
overcoming a woeful shooting effort for the victory.
Through three quarters, Russia somehow had a 47-46 lead despite
shooting 25 percent (16-for-59) from the field, including making
only 4 of 24 3-point attempts. But strong rebounding by the
Russians kept Brazil from getting any kind of lead. They dominated
the boards 41-28, getting 20 on the offensive end.
Russia (6-2) found its shooting touch in the final quarter,
going 9-for-14, and it took the lead for good at 49-48 on a layup
by Anna Arkhipova with about nine minutes to play.
Janeth Arcain, who has played on all four of Brazil's Olympic
teams, scored six points in a 10-4 run that made it 64-61 with 2:21
left. But the 35-year-old guard couldn't do it alone, and Brazil
scored just one point the rest of the way.
Diana Gustilina led Russia with 12 points, while Arkhipova added
11. The 32-year-old Baranova had seven points, four rebounds and
four assists in a team-high 30 minutes.
Now Baranova has to get back to her full-time job in the WNBA.
"Actually, I'm not happy, but I'm happy that the tournament is
finished -- finally,'' she said of the two-week, 12-team event. "I'm
going back to New York to play for the Liberty.''
Iziane Marques had 16 points and Arcain finished with 15 for
Brazil, which won silver and bronze in the last two Olympics.
Brazil (4-4) shot 41 percent (26-for-64) and also struggled from
long range, finishing 2-for-13 on 3s.
Russia lost 66-62 to the United States in the semifinals, while
Brazil lost to Australia 88-75. The teams met in the preliminary
round, a 77-67 victory for Russia.
The Soviet Union won the first two women's basketball gold
medals, 1976 and 1980, and took the bronze in 1988.