Golden opportunity: Hamchétou Maïga-Ba, Basketball
As AfroBasket women 2011 comes to Mali, Hamchétou Maïga-Ba hopes to get another shot at the Olympic Games, after winning Most Valuable Player of the tournament in Beijing in 2008.
Q. How proud a moment was it for you and for Mali to earn a place in the Olympic Games in 2008?
A. It was awesome. I can’t find the words to describe it. I was so proud that we won the African Championship. It was huge, and making it to the Games topped it off.
Q. What was your favourite memory of the Olympic Games in 2008?
A. Just being there in the middle of all those athletes from so many countries and wearing my country’s colours was special. Also, my mother got to see me walking in the Opening Ceremony. I was happy she was able to see that.
Q. How popular is basketball in Mali?
A. In Africa, football is the number one sport in most countries, and Mali is no exception. But basketball is becoming more popular here, especially with us winning the African Championship. Now people congratulate us in the street. There are tournaments for young kids, starting at the base, and the federation is doing a good job of involving everybody, not just in Bamako but in all regions of Mali.
Q. Congratulations on recently becoming a mother for the first time. How will you try to balance caring for your baby and being an elite athlete?
A. I was around DeMya Walker (her team-mate with the WNBA’s Sacramento Monarchs) when she had a baby. Everyone tries to help you out. A baby brings so much joy to the locker room!
Q. How much excitement is there in Mali about being the host for the women’s African Championships this autumn?
A. People are really excited. It’s going to be awesome. I am praying I will be able to play, but if I can’t, I will definitely be there, because it’s going to be a great tournament. Mali is so happy and proud to host it.
Q. How strong is Mali’s women’s team at this time?
A. They are young. I’m the grandma on the team. Hopefully we’ll be able to represent our country well.
Q. Has your experience in the WNBA and in Europe helped make the game more popular with women in Mali?
A. I’d love to believe so, but I won’t take all the credit for that. Basketball is something our people have always liked. And we have other players now who have been playing in Europe and in US colleges.
Q. Do you use social media to connect with fans, and how can that help spread the message of sport and of the Olympic Movement?
A. I think it is very nice if you can keep it up. I’m not good at communicating that way. But I think it’s a great medium. I know a lot of players, a lot of my team-mates, who do it really well. And fans love it because they get to know the players better. It will be a good thing for the Olympic Games.
Q. What would it mean to you to qualify for the Olympic Games again in 2012?
A. It would be great, that’s for sure. It would show that last time was not a fluke, and it would mean we would have won the African Championship at home, which would mean so much to the Malian people. I really hope that we will be able to win at home.
Q. If you weren’t able to play, would you consider being part of the team in another capacity?
A. I would like to be. Even if I am not there as a player, I would not be able to stay away. I think whether I play or not, I will be there in some capacity.