Amaya: “There are still girls who stop me on the street”

Amaya valdemoro (Alcobendas, 08/18/76) has been for years the most international player in Spanish basketball and it will be the first to be inducted into the Spanish Basketball Hall of Fame (La Cartuja Stadium, October 21). The Madrilenian said goodbye to the courts in 2013 with a gold medal hung around his neck and closed a race in which he won everything, until three WNBA rings.

What does it mean to you to be the first player to enter the Spanish Basketball Hall of Fame?

A proud. Being in this first batch of ‘hall of famers’ is a pride. In the end, it is another recognition of my sports career and this one with special affection, because it comes from people from the world of basketball. It is even more important. I am very grateful for the vote.

Do you consider yourself a benchmark in women’s basketball?

Yes although, fortunately, now we are many. In my time there weren’t that many; women’s sport was not so notorious and although there were great players, who did a lot for basketball, they have not received the same recognition as me. I do not know why. I have been very lucky during my career for the clubs I have been to, because I have fought for titles and because my generation was the “first to” generation. For example, to the WNBA. But I consider myself above all a reference because I have left it a long time ago, but there are little girls who stop me, even if they have not seen me or play. Either because of their parents, or because they see me on TV, or because of books … they bother to watch videos of me.

Who were your references?

It’s a shame, but I had no female references. I paid a lot of attention to Drazen Petrovic, Michael Jordan … A VHS of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry came into my hands and I got soaked. Magic, Fernando Martin …

And now who would those referents of women’s basketball be?

People don’t say a name like in my time: Cristina Ouviña, Alba Torrens, Laia Palau, Maite Cazorla, Marta Xargay, Anna Cruz, Raquel Carrera … We are so lucky that there is so much talent, that there can be many references. They are also very lucky. Apart from doing well on the slopes, if they are smart they can create a brand and have a visibility that we did not have.

You have been the first, but who would you like the next to be?

Elisa (Aguilar), obviously. I would also like the generation that precedes me to enter: Blanca Ares, Mónica Messa, Carolina Múgica, Wonny Geuer, who has continued to contribute with two pieces of players (the Hernangómez brothers), Anabel Álvaro, Rocío Jiménez, Paloma Sánchez. .. There are many that I think should be there and surely I have left some.

On the day of his farewell, he confessed that every morning he woke up in pain. How are you now?

Much better. I quit the sport and I was busted. I still have my miseries, like any other player, but it is different. I spent four years without doing any sport, neither my body nor my head allowed it, but now I am training with Adolfo Madrid. I can’t run continuously, but it gives me a few beats from functional exercises. I am very grateful to him for the life he is giving me, for the opportunity to feel like an athlete again, even if I no longer am.

Does any pachanga fall?

Sometimes a shot, but it gives me something. That happens to many of us, but we have a challenge for this summer. Elisa (Aguilar) told me that we should play a 3×3 and I’m considering it; I asked him for a 3×3 ball. The two of us meet with a couple of young players, have a laugh and see what this new modality is like, so dynamic … I feel like it, so maybe this summer we will sign up for a tournament.

At the age of 14 he went to Salamanca. If you now had a son or daughter who raised that to you, would you let him?

Before it was even more complicated: there were no mobiles, you couldn’t do Facetime … I’ve ever thought about it, I don’t know how my parents dared. But they saw it very clearly. I started playing with 13, it’s all very strong. I don’t know if these days they would let me.

Before turning to basketball, he practiced track and field. Why this change?

I was good at all sports. While I was doing athletics, my uncle saw that I had powers and he always told me so. My sister played in high school. I went to see them play, the other team was missing and I started playing with them. A girl was at the Tintoretto and was amazed at the ability he had and the nonsense he did that he had seen in the NBA. I did a test … and you see.

A few days ago, Pau Gasol announced his retirement. Did something stir inside you and remember yours?

I was in director with Movistar and I saw him with a broken voice, suffering. So many things go through your head … you don’t want anyone to forget. It is a very special moment. That day I was surprised at the head that Pau has, how well he speaks, how clever he is … He always says the right thing at the right time, but that day was the one when he put the most heart into his words. He deserves it all. He has been the most important person in Spanish basketball.

What is the best memory you take away from your sports career?

Long the ceremony of the Games. With all the moments that I have lived and everything that I have been able to win, I keep that one because it is the dream you have as a child. The country stands for the Olympics, with the Olympic parade. I have the saved images of Athens, which can be seen in the video; I have not located myself in those in Beijing … but I have them like gold on a cloth, because it is an incredible moment.

And also, in some Games, he was able to carry his mother’s surname, Madariaga.

It was the most beautiful thing in the world. I didn’t tell anyone and asked for permission well in advance. FEB did everything possible and it is the most special gift I have given to my family. They had to call my father because he didn’t even notice. Also, I was on the verge of not going to these Games because of the twin.

And the hardest?

When I realized this was over Before the wrist injury, he had a lot of muscle problems, but he was cheating. But afterwards, I was hitting the coconut during the rehab period for a long time. The same thing happened to me as Pau, I didn’t want to retire with crutches, we both wanted to say goodbye feeling like players. It is the fear that we all have. We have sacrificed so much that retiring due to injury is very unfair. And sportingly, 2011 was a nightmare. In that championship we were gold, but Sancho was injured, I was injured, Marta (Xargay) was injured …

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But two years later, he ended his career with that 2013 European gold.

That was spectacular. I had a lot of bronzes, a silver, but the feeling of retiring lifting a title (snorts) is incredible. Before the final I thought that if we won I would cry like a cupcake and I was excited, but I didn’t cry until the locker room. At that moment I cried a lot, but I also did it throughout the championship, because I knew this was over. It was a roller coaster. I went to the Eurobasket with other types of expectations, because I was not the fundamental pillar of the team. My role was to take pressure off the young women, I was going to play more than ‘four’ than ‘three’, there were games that I didn’t even play but in the quarterfinals I was important … I couldn’t have had a better farewell.

With that gold, did you remove the thorn from the 2007 final? How many times have you turned that final entry around?

Many, but what are you going to do. We were out of gas. We went to halftime 22 down and rallied against Russia. I remember the entrance very well. It was on the left, I picked up the ball so that no one would take it from me, bang, bang, bang … I let go of it and left thinking I had put it in, but he made me my tie. Then the boys were the same. And against Russia too. But everything adds up to get to where we have arrived. We have to go on burning stages and that helped us to make us stronger. From there, very nice things came, the 2010 world bronze … that was incredible. And with the old format. Forgive me, but the championships are shorter now, you plant yourself in the quarterfinals with four games and that is laughable. I do not like it. That World Cup was nine games in eleven days.

What has the Selection meant to you?

My team. People recognize me for the National Team. I was able to do many things, I played in Russia, Valencia, Salamanca … but, especially in women’s sports, the National Team is more important.

She has always been a very temperamental player, how has she handled the whistles from the stands that used to applaud her?

I made myself in Salamanca and I made myself known in Europe in Valencia, but then they hated me … on the track. People who booed me then asked me for photos. Salamanca has that. Live basketball 100% and felt hurt, but I understand. But I think there is no better hobby than there. I also understand that I was a very expressive player on the court and I always said it: either they love me or they hate me. I was not cool, I lived basketball and I did not rejoice in the rival, the gestures were for me.

Apart from Valencia and Salamanca he also played in Rivas. What did it mean for a Madrilenian like you to finally play in Madrid?

The final of the Queen’s Cup against Ros, who did not behave very well with Elisa and me, tasted like glory. The withdrawal is sour, the injuries knock on your door, the clubs see more clearly than the player himself that that person is no longer at the level he was due to the injuries, they dispense with you … but there are ways and ways. Rivas was a good project and it showed and, above all, I was at home with my family. The first year was spectacular and the second … I broke both wrists in the first game.

After that stage in Rivas, he went to Turkey and then returned to play in LF Endesa 2 with Canoe and prepare for the Eurobasket. Do you regret leaving?

When I was injured, Rivas did not offer me the renewal and in Spain he had no offers. People had doubts about my condition: the dolls, the twin … I remember that I had offers in Croatia, Turkey and Russia. We decided on Turkey because it was the most competitive league, the thing that the team was … I already knew that I was going to retire, I was in a thousand pains, I saw myself on Christmas Eve alone and I thought ‘what am I doing here’. I packed my bags and came to Spain to prepare the European.

How was your Russian stage?

The memories I have are not bad, despite the fact that I lived through moments of anguish. When I left there were no possibilities to communicate that there are now. I left with a suitcase full of books, every time I returned to Spain I would carry it again and when I left Moscow, which I was there for three years, I don’t know how many books I could leave the Instituto Cervantes. I also remember that on my first trip I put a leg of ham with the ham holder and everything. I don’t know how it got. The Russians laughed when they saw me and said ‘but what do you do with that!’ And I would answer them ‘try, try and you’ll see’.

Besides ham, they also became fond of their potato omelette.

It all started with the Spanish, French, Belgian night … and ended up being the night of the potato omelette. They even learned! Becky Hammon makes potato omelette because I taught her.

There in Moscow, the Spartak offered him a blank check. Do you regret not having accepted it?

Well yes (laughs). It was a blank check, but I couldn’t have put any number … Anyway, I couldn’t take it anymore.

You also played in the US Did you come to the WNBA too early?

It may be, but the main problem was where I got. My rights belonged to the Comets. Every year I received offers, but my coach (Van Chacellor) told me that he would rather have me on the bench than on the opposing team. I’m burning. I was there for five years and in the fifth they threw me out at the last minute so that no other team could take me. He thanked me for everything, he told me that he couldn’t have had a better player, that he felt bad about himself because I was so talented, but that his job was to win and he couldn’t reinforce others. After that I went back to Spain, prepared for the World Cup in China and was the top scorer. I played against the USA and my coach was precisely the coach. I don’t know if I scored 27 or 32 points … When we were greeting each other at the end, he told me that if I wanted to, I could go back to Houston next year. Being there made me better, but surely in another team I would have had a longer career.

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