13 - 19
June 2016
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Silva believes time is right for Venezuela women to take next step

BARQUISIMETO (2016 FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament) - A moment of truth is about to arrive for the Venezuela women's national team. That is the impression one has after hearing the words of coach Oscar Silva ahead of the South American Women's Championship.

Silva, who has been at the helm of the side in recent times and guided them to a fifth-place finish at the 2015 FIBA Americas Women's Championship and to a spot in the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament (WOQT), wants to see how his players respond this weekend. The South American Women's Championship will be held on home soil, in Barquisimeto, 20-26 May.

I am confident in the group that we have. The girls are mentally ready and they understand the responsibility that comes with being at home in front of a demanding public in Barquisimeto. I think it's the ideal time to achieve our goals. It is our court, with the support of the public and we are preparing better than ever. - Silva

Basketball has moved into the limelight in Venezuela. The country staged the men's 2012 FIBA Olympic Tournament and the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship. Last summer, Silva's side clinched a spot in the WOQT when they beat Puerto Rico in the battle for fifth place at the continental championship in Canada.

The men, led by coach Nestor 'Che' Garcia, then won the FIBA Americas Championship in Mexico City. They qualified for the Olympics for the first time since 1992.

The women have not played at an Olympics before, nor have they featured at a FIBA Women's World Championship, or claimed a South American Championship title. How will they do as the home side?

Some teams do not cope well with the pressure of competing in front of their own fans. Silva, though, does not believe that will be a problem for his players.

He has been encouraged by what he has seen in practices and friendly games. The Vinotinto women have been training with Silva since the end of last year. 

"Everything has happened in a beautiful way," the coach said. "I believe that the women's national team has adapted better and been better prepared. Without wanting to disrespect what has been done in the past, I say this because of the level and the length of the process that we have gone through before arriving here; we have been training from 15 December, going through Brazil, China and Spain.

"We have been improving tournament by tournament and achieving new things, unprecedented things, and that means that the demands are always going to be greater."

What Silva has done is taken Venezuelan women's basketball into unchartered waters. Now is the time, he says, to take another big step, before they travel to the 12-team WOQT (13-19 June) in Nantes, France, where they will hope to claim one of the five spots on offer for the Rio de Janeiro Games.

We have high expectations of playing in the (South American Women's Championship) Final, this is the commitment that we have made," he said. "Being on the podium wouldn't be bad, but we want to play in the Final, to beat the big rivals, with all respect to the others. - Silva