Kristi eyes fourth Games

Bendigo Bank Spirit star Kristi Harrower has earned selection in the extended Australian Opals basketball squad for the London Olympics.But the star point guard faces a race against time to prove her fitness for the Games, which tip off in July.The 36-year-old is struggling with an injury to her right Achilles tendon, which follows an injury to her left Achilles sustained in a match against Sydney in October.A dual winner of the Bendigo Advertiser-WIN Television Sports Star of the Year, Harrower was inducted to the Hall of Fame at last year’s awards, which are sponsored by bankmecu.Harrower has battled similar injuries throughout her career, but she has found them to be increasingly problematic this season – and she had her own blood injected into the left Achilles after the Sydney match in a bid to recover faster.The treatment worked well and she could have more injections when she begins rehabilitation after the Spirit’s season ends. “I need to take some time off when our season finishes to try and get my Achilles’ right,” Harrower said.“The blood injections cut healing times and strengthens the tendon. The right one is pretty bad at the moment.”Harrower is the sole representative from the Spirit in the 24-player Opals squad, which will be aiming to improve on fifth place at the 2010 World Championship.The squad boasts several experienced Opals players, including Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor, Suzy Batkovic, Harrower and Belinda Snell.Rising stars such as Liz Cambage, Jenna O’Hea and Abby Bishop will also be strong chances of making the final team.Harrower has won silver medals at the past three Olympics and will be hoping to join a select group of athletes to represent Australia at four consecutive Games.The Opals will cut some players after a selection camp next month, with the remaining players moving into the official pre-Olympic training camp at the AIS in May.A dozen players will make the final squad for London and Harrower believes her experience will work in her favour when the final team is announced.“As long as my body holds up I think I’ll be there.“I think the thing that’s getting me through is probably my experience,” she said.“And I suppose I’m still playing quite well at the moment, if I was having a season like last year I’d have to really consider whether I should be in the team.”Harrower will take to the Bendgio Stadium showcourt tonight for Bendigo Spirit against Logan Thunder.Despite battling injuries for most of this season, Harrower is averaging 13.7 points per game, 3.6 rebounds and four assists.Opals head coach Carrie Graf said most of the squad would be selected from a group of experienced and outstanding players, but there were positions available for emerging stars.“There is a core group of players who are going to clearly be in that Olympic team.“And then there are going to be a few spots open for players to battle it out and for us to see what is going to be the best fit for the team,” Graf said.“There are some young athletes that weren’t selected that we feel are a part of the future, who have had very good WNBL seasons.“But we’re getting to the pointy end of things now and it’s about the 2012 campaign and who can force their way into the group and who can help us in the process,” she said of the Olympics campaign.The Opals squad for the 2012 London Olympics:Suzy Batkovic, Abby Bishop (Adelaide), Liz Cambage (Bulleen), Rohanee Cox (West Coast), Rachael Flanagan (Townsville), Cayla Francis (Logan), Kristi Harrower (Bendigo), Laura Hodges (Bracco Geas Sesto, Italy), Natalie Hurst (Aix-en Provence, France), Lauren Jackson (Ros Casares, Spain), Rachel Jarry (Bulleen), Kathleen Macleod, Jenna O’Hea, Elyse Penaluna (Bulleen), Erin Phillips (TS Wisla Can-Pak, Poland), Alicia Poto (Sydney), Samantha Richards (Bulleen), Jennifer Screen (Adelaide), Belinda Snell (Sydney), Penny Taylor (Fenerbahce, Turkey), Marianna Tolo (Canberra), Kristen Veal (Logan), Carly Wilson (Canberra), Hanna Zavecz (Uniqa Euroleasing Sopron, Hungary).

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