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News Link • Entertainment: Sports

Spain's Olympic Basketball Team Takes Aim At U.S.

• http://www.npr.org, by Lauren Frayer
 

Spain is a country that partied for days after winning the European Soccer Championships earlier this month.

Soccer dominates the sports scene, and the Spanish side is favored to win Olympic gold in London this summer. But Spain is also a basketball powerhouse and is currently ranked No. 2 in the world behind the U.S.

At a school gym, you'll find Spaniards who actually know that. Basketball is growing in popularity among kids, especially girls.

"Basketball is a sport that's beautiful for me," says 13-year-old Lucia Gutierrez.

Gutierrez says her bedroom walls are plastered with posters of the Olympic team. Her teammate, 15-year-old María Lopez, chimes in.

"Basketball is a part of my life," Lopez says.
 
Reaching The International Stage

A generation ago, basketball became a fixture in Spanish schools, and now that's paying off as Spanish players make a mark far beyond their homeland.

"It's a lot of work, and a little bit of luck. You know?" says Borja Castejon, the head of the Basketball Federation of Madrid, who has trained several Olympians.

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