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Basketball legends named YOG Role Models

21 May 2010

Australian basketball legends Andrew Gaze and Michele Timms alongside Brazil’s Oscar Schmidt and Yugoslavia’s Aleksandar ‘Sasha’ Djordjevic have been named as Athlete Role Models (ARM) for this summer’s inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) set to take place in the city-state of Singapore between the 14th and 26th August.

The four former international basketball superstars will be on hand to witness the YOG 3on3 tournaments for young men and women, which will involve a total of 40 teams from 38 different countries, including an Australian Women’s team.

The competition is organised by FIBA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). And the legends will come out of retirement – if only for a short period of time – to go up against the very best youngsters in various skills contests testing players’ shooting range and accuracy as well as ball-handling.

Schmidt is a Brazilian idol best known as Mano Santa (‘Holy Hand’) and considered one of the best players never to have played in the NBA. He played in five Olympic Games as well as five FIBA World Championships and was the best scorer in three of those 10 tournaments. He helped his country reach the quarter-final stages on numerous occasions.

“I’m very happy to have been chosen as an athlete role model for the Youth Olympic Games,” Schmidt said. “It’s an honour. I hope to do well in the games. Maybe I will practice again.”

Much like Schmidt in Brazil, Gaze is a legend in his own right in Australia, having played for the national team in five Olympic Game and four FIBA World Championships. He guided the Boomers to some of their best results, including three fourth-place finishes in the Olympics.

Schmidt and Gaze rank among the top scorers of all time in both the Olympic Games and the FIBA World Championships and the Australian looks forward to renewing the rivalry.

“It’s an honour to be invited,” Gaze said.

“I can’t wait to have another crack at Oscar (Schmidt) and Aleksandar (Djordjevic) but Timmsy (Michele Timms) is the one I’m worried about in the shooting competition. Get ready boys, the Aussies are coming to get you”.

Gaze’s compatriot Timms helped Australia’s women’s national team to their first ever Olympic medal – a bronze – in Atlanta in 1996 and captained the Opals side that went one better four years later in Sydney.

She played on the national team for 14 years. She began her professional career in 1984 in Australia and five years later became the country’s first woman player to play abroad, joining German side Lotus Munchen. She would go on to garner many awards, including being named the International Player of the Year in 1994 and 1996.

Timms starred for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury team from 1997 to 2001 when she brought an end to her playing career.

The following year, she became only the league’s second player and the Mercury’s first to have her jersey retired. In 2008, she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and became an assistant coach on the Opals.

“I look forward to being involved. It is a massive honour and I’m thankful for it,” said Timms.

Djordjevic experienced enormous success with Yugoslavia, helping them to the FIBA World Championship crown in 1998, a silver medal at the Atlanta Olympics two years earlier and an impressive three EuroBasket titles (1991, 1995, 1997).

He played a total of 108 games for his national team and became an ambassador of good will in Serbia while also helping the foundation of humanitarian organisation Group Seven.

The YOG will bring together 3,600 athletes who are aged 14 to 18 and coming from all 205 National Olympic Committees to compete in the 26 sports on the London 2012 Olympic Games programme.

A culture and education programme will raise participants’ awareness of the Olympic values and topics such as healthy lifestyles and the fight against doping.

A number of communications initiatives will link the youth of the world with the event. A culture programme will ensure a festive atmosphere within the host city.

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