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To connect with a medal, Xargay had to disconnect from basketball
TENERIFE (FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018) - Even if basketball is the only drug you need, going cold turkey doesn't seem like a bad idea. Marta Xargay has done it, now she is back and ready to do what she does best - win.
"Not playing the WNBA this year was fine for me," the 27-year-old said. A lot of high profile basketball is squeezed into those years, nine EuroLeague Women seasons, two WNBA campaigns, and not a summer missed with the senior national team since 2011. A basketball addict, Xargay needed to find a break in her schedule somewhere.
"I deserved some relaxation and time to recover from my injuries and other physical issues. That's why at this moment I feel better physically and ready mentally, because I had holidays and time to disconnect from basketball before this FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup," the two-time FIBA Women's EuroBasket gold medalist explained.
The disconnection seems to have worked well. Questions could be asked about the pressure of playing in front of your own fans, but Xargay is not feeling it.
"Playing at home is more a prize than a situation of pressure. Each summer, our girls have a new challenge, and probably the most special one is playing a World Cup at home. This is a prize for the hard work done last year. Definitely, this is a reward."
Speaking of rewards, Marta says she has not thought about the celebrations of another award, at least not yet, and will try and do her best to keep those thoughts out of her head until the final weekend of action in Tenerife. Same goes for all her teammates, Spain stay united on and off the court.
"After the end of the club competitions, each member of this team counts down the days until we see each other at the camp. During our off days, we go out for a lunch together, have a walk, do things to make us feel like a family. We really enjoy it," Xargay described.
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Such chemistry has led Spain to medals in the last five major tournaments they have appeared in, but they are yet to taste gold at this kind of event. It is of no surprise where Xargay's finger pointed when asked about the toughest challenge awaiting the hosts on the Canary Islands.
"Because of their physicality, the United States. Their speed, style of play, their heights, wingspans...they are great at rebounding, passing, shooting. All 12 players are pretty competitive, and these girls have so many options. If one of them is having a bad day, two or three other players are waiting to do it better off the bench. It is not easy to beat USA, because all of them need to have a bad day," the Spanish number 10 said.
But at the same time...
"USA are not invincible. They are human. We believe this as a squad. And if there is something that represents this team, it's the fact we never give up. We've won games when it looked like we could not do it," Xargay said before pulling the handbrake on time, before she gets ahead of herself.
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"Actually, this team is not thinking about the game against the US. Our only focus is on the first game, against a tough rival like Japan. Then the next game. Game by game. And if we play against the USA, we will do our best."
Spain and USA have met in the Finals of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2014. USA won both times, 101-72 in Brazil in 2016, and 77-64 in Turkey four years ago.
Third time lucky, in front of the home crowd? Sounds like a plan for Spain.