11 October, 2016
16 April, 2017
8 Hélèna Ciak (Dynamo Kursk) (photo: Timur Tsnobiladze)
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More sunshine than snow for Ciak in Kursk

KURSK (EuroLeague Women/FIBA EuroBasket Women 2017) – Helena Ciak is being rewarded for her bold decision to move to Dynamo Kursk last summer with a EuroLeague Women Final Four debut.

This time last year, the Les Bleues center had never played outside of her homeland and was in a good situation at Tango Bourges Basket where she lifted the EuroCup Women title.

Now she is just two games away from building on last year’s silverware and upgrading with a EuroLeague Women winner's medal as she gets ready to go to Ekaterinburg for the Final Four.

Perhaps most importantly, Ciak has managed to through her first season away from home and also that maiden Russian winter.

"Well, I survived it," smiled the 27-year-old.

"No honestly, it was a really cold winter and almost minus 30 degrees and it began snowing at the end of October.

"But sure, while life in Russia is different to France, I have to say that so far at least, it hasn't been so bad at all. The people have been so nice and the club welcomed me very well and as a new member of the Dynamo family - something I have really appreciated."

Tourisme à Moscou 🇷🇺 👌🏼#redsquare#saintbasilscathedral @annacruz_15 ( mucho frio !!! )

A post shared by Helena Ciak (@helena_ciak) on

Helping to take the edge of the icy temperatures with some Spanish sunshine is playcaller Lucas Mondelo – also in his first campaign at the club and having driven a brilliant season so far.

"When I knew that Lucas would be our coach, I was really happy because I already knew of him from the Spanish national team and also his impressive career," revealed an appreciative Ciak.

"His way of working and practicing is not all that different to what I have had before, in that is it a similar kind of European style. But, I like to play for him and for sure, he knows basketball very well.

"I think he has helped us have a good chemistry with all the coaches and also among the group of players - people know their role in the group very well.

"Also, we have developed a 'warrior' state of mind during the course of the season and you could see it in the tougher games."

She added, "This is what I like about this team and I hope it will help us for the Final Four. If everybody has the same goal, the same desire and stays focused, then we can do great things."

During the EuroLeague Women Quarter-Finals, Ciak got to return to Le Prado and that was a special experience as Tango Bourges pushed Dynamo Kursk hard in both games of the series.

Her former employers were helped by exciting contributions from fresh talents Marine Johannes and Alexia Chartereau – two players who the center is monitoring with huge interest.

She said: "I spent two years there and having met many nice people, I was glad to see them again – as well as being in France again for a few days.

"It was two tough games and I knew it would be the case, because Bourges have got a really good roster.

"I'm impressed with the progress of Marine [Johannes] and Alexia [Chartereau], since every time I have taken a look at Bourges Basket in the French Championship or in EuroLeague Women, you can see they are both improving so fast.

"I'm really happy for them, because I know they are working hard on their respective games."

It’s been quite a 12 months for Ciak, that’s for sure. From the top step of the EuroCup Women podium, to an Olympic debut with France and even being pipped for a medal hasn't completely spoiled her memories of Rio 2016.

"I met a lot of 'stars' that I had only seen on television or in magazines and some from when I was a kid," laughed Ciak.

"It was a dream come true and it was my best ever experience by far – even if we had our ups and downs on the court, which started with the Celine [Dumerc] injury on the first day.

"It was tough for our group to lose her and we just tried to focus and stick together. We made a good job by winning important games - until the one for the bronze medal.

"I have to say that I still keep a slightly bitter taste from our loss against Serbia. But, that’s the reality of sport and nothing will detract from the fact that wearing the blue jersey during the Olympics was the best experience I’ve ever had.

She continued, "Of course, we remember our previous games against Serbia and this summer at the EuroBasket Women Final Round we want to take our revenge.

"Our group looks hard because it has good teams, with good rosters and so we just have to take each game one by one and keep the required determination and focus."

For now though, Ciak has all her concentration on the EuroLeague Women Final Four and their Semi-Final match-up against ZVVZ USK Prague as she looks to make history with Dynamo Kursk.