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São Paulo
02 June 2006
Retiring Melain earns Mainini praise

Paris/France - French Basketball Federation (FFB) president Yvan Mainini paid tribute to Cathy Melain after the basketball great announced her retirement from the national team. Melain stunned reporters at the FFB ahead of coach Alain Jardel's announcement of his 17-strong squad for the FIBA World Championship for Women in Brazil. The 32-year-old Bourges forward, a member of Les Bleues' gold medal-winning side at the EuroBasket Women in 2001, decided to call it quits with the national side after a total of 227 caps.

The decision leaves Jardel without one of his top players for Brazil, where France's chances of advancing from an already difficult Group D which includes Cuba, European champions the Czech Republic and Chinese Taipei became a little harder.

— Cathy will always remain one of the most charismatic players in France. She has marked the spirit of the national team, and I want to thank her for what she has achieved and all the great moments she's offered us — said Mainini.

— It is rare to have such a great French player with such a beautiful career. It is hugely emotional for me to see her go — added Jardel.

At last year's EuroBasket Women in Turkey, France finished fifth. In that tournament, Melain showed her unselfish, all-round play by averaging 7.6 points, 5.1 assists and 5.1 rebounds. But she has decided enough is enough.

— It's time to leave my (national team) place and prepare for my future. I will continue with Bourges next season, and then I will see what happens — said Melain.

Seven out of the 17 selected players have never featured for France, including Clemence Beikes, Elodie Bertal, Sandrine Gruda, Florence Lepron, Amelie Pochet, Geraldine Robert and Fatimatou Sacko. The team does have more experienced players such as Elodie Godin, Sandra Le Drean, Nathalie Ledesma and Audrey Sauret-Gillespie. Sandra Dijon, Emilie Gomis, Edwige Lawson, Emmeline N'Dongue and Sabrina Palie are on the reserve team.

— This is a new adventure for the women's team with the emergence of new talents. The younger players will have to take more responsibility, especially after the retirement of Cathy. Before, they could rely on her to reassure them. In terms of technique and tactics, Cathy's departure will not change much. However, it will change the spirit of the team — added Jardel.

France will play tournaments in Calais, Chekhov (Russia), Vannes and in Martinique (French West Indies) before they travel to Brazil in September for the FIBA World Championship for Women. Les Bleues finished eighth the last time the event was staged in China four years ago.

France Preliminary squad for FIBA World Championship for Women
Krissy Bade (USO Mondeville)
Clemence Beikes (Cavigal Nice)
Elodie Bertal (Lattes Montpellier)
Aurelie Bonnan (USO Mondeville)
Celine Dumerc (Bourges Basket)
Elodie Godin (Bourges Basket)
Sandrine Grudin (US Valenciennes)
Emmanuelle Hermouet (US Valenciennes)
Caroline Koechlin (USO Mondeville)
Sandra Le Drean (US Valenciennes)
Florence Lepron (Tarbes)
Nathalie Lesdema (VBM Samara)
Amelie Pochet (USO Mondeville)
Sabrina Reghaissa (Bourges Basket)
Geraldine Robert (RC Strasbourg)
Fatimatou Sacko (ESB Villeneuve d'Ascq)
Audrey Sauret-Gillespie (UMMC Ekaterinbourg)

From Isabelle Rondeau, PA Sport
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