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Brazzil - Sports - August 2004

WNBA Champion Prefers Brazil's Olympic Team

At 35, Brazilian basketball player Janeth Arcain has won most
contests in her professional life, ranging from the São Paulo State
tournament to the Brazilian championship to four WNBA titles in
the United States. She has never won an Olympics gold medal,
however, and hopes to change this in Athens, this year.

Luis Waldmann


Picture Brazilian Janeth Arcain, a four-time champion in the US Women's Basketball Association (WNBA), will be joining the Brazilian squad in the nearing Athens Olympics instead of playing another season with the Houston Comets.

But if the Comets manage to qualify for the playoffs, Arcain says she will rush back to the U.S. once the Olympics are over. The overlapping prompted the WNBA to push back this season's playoffs by one month to September.

"The Comets wanted me, but I said it wasn't going to work out this year." Arcain said. "The simple fact of going to the Olympics to defend your country is far greater than defending a team or a city."

Neither do the prospects of being pitted against Comets teammates Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson and coach Van Chancellor in Athens faze Arcain.

"I'm friends with them, but you have to go and do your job," said Arcain, who has already faced the trio in the 2002 World Championship. "I'm lucky that sports allow you to make many friends."

This situation is quite familiar to Arcain. Two weeks before her debut in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Arcain was still in Houston making sure the Comets would seize their fourth WNBA title. On the next day she arrived in São Paulo at six in the morning, only to catch a plane bound to Hawaii later in the evening. There she finally had a few days' practice with the Brazilian team.

At 35, she has won most contests in her professional life, ranging from the São Paulo State tournament to the Brazilian championship to four WNBA titles in the United States. To her dismay, however, she has never won an Olympics gold medal. Arcain got silver in Atlanta 1996, bronze in Sydney 2000 and is slated for her fifth Summer Olympic Games in Athens.

"Janeth is an irreplaceable player," said Antônio Carlos Barbosa, coach of the Brazilian female basketball squad since 1997. Although in Brazil Arcain plays as forward, in Houston she has been a guard, point-guard, forward and small post. According to Arcain, this "has allowed me to evolve in various positions."

The Comets asked Arcain as early as February to join them this season, but it wasn't until April that she gave them the final answer. Having played in the WNBA since its inception in 1997, this would have been her eighth season in Houston in as many years.

Arcain usually stays in Houston from April until early August, in a fully-furnished apartment-hotel the Comets provide her. As soon as the WNBA season is over, she returns to Brazil where she plays in the local season, which takes place from September to January. Soccer-mad Brazil started its first women's basketball league thirteen years ahead of its US counterpart.

Brazil clinched the only berth at stake for the Americas region in the Olympic qualifying tournament last year in Culiacán, Mexico. The US was automatically entitled to one because it won the 2002 Women's World Championship. In addition to Arcain, Brazil also features Helen Luz of the Washington Mystics and Iziane Castro Marques of the Phoenix Mercury.

"If I win both the gold medal and the WNBA title this year, it will be just too emotional for me," Arcain said. "I might even consider quitting, at the zenith of my career."

Luis Waldmann is a freelance writer based in Rio de Janeiro. He can be reached at editor@bnbureau.com.br

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