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ESP - End of an era as Valdemoro retires

MADRID (FIBA World Championship for Women) - Spain's Amaya Valdemoro has drawn the curtain on her inspirational playing career in basketball.

A gold-medal winner for the first time at the EuroBasket Women back in June, Valdemoro announced her retirement at a press conference in Madrid on Tuesday.

While she played for numerous clubs all over Europe and briefly in the WNBA, many of the 37-year-old's fondest memories are with the Spanish squad.

"One of the things that I feel most proud of is to have worn the national team colors 258 times," she said.

"I have been in 12 teams but I was always ready to wear the Spain jersey."

Valdemoro was Spain's emotional leader for more than a decade.

She experienced both highs and lows.

At the EuroBasket Women 2007 in Chieti, Italy, the Madrid native averaged 15.8 points and had 26 in the Gold Medal Game against Russia but endured a 64-58 defeat.

Valdemoro wept afterwards, yet was named MVP of the event.

She played in eight European Championships, four FIBA World Championships for Women and two Olympic Games.

With her terrific playmaking skills and frequent shouts of "Vamos", Valdemoro was the heart and soul of the squad.

Valdemoro was in the team that fought back from 17 points down against Poland to win the bronze medal at the EuroBasket Women 2003 and qualify for the Athens Olympics.

The 1.83m forward can reflect on many incredible games, like 2010 when she played 43 minutes and led Spain to a 74-71 come-from-behind overtime victory against France in the Quarter-Finals of the FIBA World Championship for Women.

Valdemoro never ran low on passion.

If Spain ever trailed, she provided a spark.

"My mother saw me make my debut with the national team and the character that I displayed on the court I owe it to her," she said.

Valdemoro won a lot of titles with the numerous clubs that she played for in her career.

But she stressed: "My biggest achievements are the friends that I have made along on the way, especially one friend in particular, Elisa (Aguilar)," she said.

"We have complemented each other really well."

Aguilar, who like Valdemoro is a much-loved member of the Spanish basketball family who played in her last EuroBasket this year, paid tribute to her good friend on Tuesday.

"Today, the best Spanish player of all time is stepping down," Aguilar said.

"Thank you for being our guiding star.

"Thank you for setting an example to follow…"

Spanish Basketball Federation President Jose Luis Saez also praised Valdemoro.

"I have lived intensely with Amaya," he said.

"I have lived (experienced) her not only as a sportswoman but as a person.

"Amaya is one of those individuals that allows you to dream and who always believed that her place is on the podium even though the circumstances indicated the contrary.

"No one doubts that Amaya has been a player of a great level.

"She has been a leader while she has also made the team grow."

At her press conference, Valdemoro also displayed a sense of humor.

"I heard that I'm never going to put on my national team jersey on again," she said.

"That is a lie.

"I'm going to put it on right now."

That drew laughs.

She then waved goodbye.


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