Cathy Melain: That Was The Best Way I Could Ever Dream To Stop My Career

Talk about Cathy Melain is talking about a French Basketball legend. The 35 year-old guard/forward after a 20 years career, decided to hang out the jersey after EuroBasket 2009, for what was convinced by Pierre Vincent to come back to the National Team. And the truth is that she stop her great career in the way that most sportsman dream: winning a championship in a big final, this time again the former invincible Russia.

But that's just the "icing on the cake" since Melain has an enviable resume. Two times European Champion (2001 and 2009), Silver Medal at EuroBasket 1999, EuroLeague Champion in 1997, 1998 and 2001. France Champion in 1996, 97, 98, 99, 2000, 2006, 2008 and 2009, EuroLeague MVP in 2000…

For all this and to know how she feels after her retirement, how was EuroBasket and her expectations on her future, we decided to talk to her…

LOK@S: Did you finally get used to be retired?

Cathy: Yes. Since I stop my career, I don't have any regrets with the decision I made. I feel great and enjoying my new life.

LOK@S: How do you fight basketball sickness? Do you miss it at all?

Cathy: I don't have basketball sickness!!! I don't miss a big part of basketball player life, I just miss playing a little but just for the fun and cheering moments with teammates. I am going, every time I can, to watch games and following basketball life.

LOK@S: When and what made you decide that was time to hang out the jersey?

Cathy: 2 years ago, I decide to sign a 2 years contract and thinking maybe it will be the end. And before starting the second year of this contract, I made my final decision. I wasn't sick of basketball but I felt it was the last one and that it will be too much doing more. I start to felt tired of part of basketball player life (like travelling, practicing….). I didn't want to do the too much season. And what made it easier was that I had a new challenge and had a clear idea of what I wanted to do after.

LOK@S: Previously retired from nacional team four years ago, Pierre Vincent, your last coach in Bourges persuaded you to come back with the Bleues. Right now I don't think you regret, right?

Cathy: I don't regret AT ALL….!!!! That was the best way I could ever dream to stop my career…. That was a hard decisión because it could be a risk for me, my career and the pleasure I could get. I was asking myself: why? Why doing it? For what? Now I have the answer…

LOK@S: How many times did you dream about retiring winning the European Championship?


Cathy: Never…. When you are a sportsman, you always dream to stop at the right moment and with a title but what is the right moment!!!! When you are still winning and performing, why stopping? It is hard….

LOK@S. Was this title sweeter than the crown claimed in 2001?

Cathy: It is so different. In 2001 our goal was to win the title, we were ready for it, programming for it, we built a team since many years for this goal, we knew we could do it and we had many confidence. And it was in France, we could share it with our family, our friends and the fans. This year was the big surprise, nobody expected us at this level, include us. Our goal was to qualify for the world championship and we never talk about the title, even before the final. We were living day by day, step by step. We had a short time to prepare so we were still improving during the European championship. We were outside of our country and lived this adventure together. That made it special and made a special feeling, we were closer to each other and that made us unit. We had so much pleasure leaving and working together.

LOK@S: The Final against Russia was your last game, What was going through your mind in the previous moments and during the game?

Cathy: I had two feelings. The first one was the pleasure to play this game. The fact that we didn't expect to win make us cool during the game. We had no pressure… until we realise we could win this game!!!! 5 minutes before the end, I remember myself watching the scoreboard and thinking "oh my god, we will win!!!" And the second feeling, it was more the night before, I realised it would be my last game and I was sad. I realised it would be the last time I would prepare a game, warm-up and having a challenge as a player. It was terrible…. But even if I was sad I never thought continuing playing.

LOK@S:People sure didn't think Russia could fall against France again, but it happened. What was key for the success of this team which didn't have seasoned veterans as Audrey Sauret or Sandra LeDrean and that maybe wasn't expected to go so far?

Cathy: For me, the first is that we were humble. We knew who we were, our qualities and our weakness. We didn't have veterans but we have some great young players like Sandrine Gruda or Celine Dumerc. They are the leaders of this generation and they are used to the top level and the pressure that goes with it. They know the game… Some of the players were frustrated of the last competition and they wanted to do everything to change it. The second important key was that everybody found their place in the team, what they could do to help the team, and accept their role. It is important that everybody have the feeling to be part of the team, know what we are expecting from them and are ready when the team need. And the last one was that everybody knows the only way to win is to doing it together, as a team, and that is not a personal goal.

LOK@S: We (journalists) discussed about your importance in the team at different levels, mental, physical but, what do you think was your part in France's success?

Cathy: When I decided to come back in the national team, my goal was to don't break the dynamic of reconstruction of this team. I didn't want to take the leadership of this team and let the young ones taking the future of the French national team. I knew it was just for one competition. I just wanted to help them going on the right road, the right way…. After the European championship when I think about it, I think my role was to be there in case they need. I give them a security.

LOK@S: At the Open LFB we saw yourself broadcasting games for LFB, but last year you were assistant coach of France's U16 team, just like Laure Savasta did with U18, Are you considering coaching as a career?

Cathy: Coaching is my new motivation. I past my coach diploma and discover the interest I have on it. This is what I want to do now. I know I have many things to learn but I am ready for it.

LOK@S: What is your balance of your experience as assistant coach with U16 team?

Cathy: It was my second experience where I was in the project from the beginning to the end. It confirms me that I want to be a coach. It also reminds me what is it to be 16 years old and what you can do and what you have to learn. I really like this category. They are at the beginning of their career and it is where you take the good way or not. They have big dreams and sometime they don't know how reaching it or what they can expect.

LOK@S: Will you keep on cooperating with French Federation?

Cathy: I hope so… I never know what can happen but my wish is to continue this experience with the young national team.

LOK@S: France'
s youth teams have been raising big players in a regular basis: Endeme Miyem. Florence Lepron, Sandrine Gruda… In a year in which the financial situation Worldwide is certainly tough, Franch teams have looked home searching for young players coming whether INSEP or lower divisions teams, What do you think is the reality of France youth players?

Cathy: I think in France, we have many good players but not so much at the world top level. It can be explained by the fact that France is not so often in the world competition, and also by the fact that we don't give them responsibility. For example in the national team, it is the first time that Sandrine Gruda and Céline Dumerc have the key of this team. And they proved they are able to carry French basketball. Some other young players also have quality to doing it, it is just than right now they are not used to doing it and sometimes not having chance to doing it too.

LOK@S: You yourself were in the Insep, What do you remember of your stay in that program? How did it change you?

Cathy: INSEP taught me how to be a basketball player, what it demands and what you have to do, to give, to reach your goal. It was also the moment where I changed my position, I learned the guard position. Also I loved the life there, everything was organised for following the school program and practicing, you are living with sport's people and share experiences.

LOK@S: After the INSEP period your caeer in the Ligue Femenine began. Your first stops where in Tarbes and Aix, What's your balance of your first years between French elite?

Cathy: My first year was more a discovery of the professional world. I didn't play a lot but I learn a lot by watching. After it was the first time I was living by myself and I had to learn taking care of my life. The second year in Aix, I was more involved in the team project and really start to play and realise what I need to improve to play at the high level.

LOK@S: After Aix came which was the club of a Lifetime since you spent there a total of 13 years (Divided in two: from 1995 to 2003 and 2005 to 2009) What has meant Bourges for Cathy Melain?

Cathy: I played 12 seasons in Bourges and I am leaving there since 14 years so Bourges is where a big part of my life is. Most of my friends are leaving there, I bought a house, and I have my habits… And I have great souvenirs!!!! The club of Bourges gave me the opportunity to be the player I am (was) and playing at the top level in Europe. I met great players, great persons, a great president and some of the best coaches ever.

LOK@S: What are your best memories from Bourges years?

Cathy: I will remember all. It is difficult to choose one thing in particular. I have the chance to have many great memories. All the title of course but also the bad moment were experience of life and help me to grow up.

LOK@S: You also placed in Italy, while you weren't at Bourges, from 2003 to 2005, in Venice, What brought to you your experience in Italy?

Cathy: More than basketball, it taught me a lot on my person. When you are alone out of your country, you are learning a lot on the person you are.

LOK@S: You surely will have like a million memories, but apart from the last European gold, What are the memories you cherish the most (and what they mean to you?

Cathy: Like I said before I was very lucky in my sport's life. I did everything I can dream. If I have to pick one, the Olympic games were special because it was a dream since I was little and I thought it was still a dream when I started my career.

LOK@S: Is there anything you'd have loved to accomplish and didn't?


Cathy: I would have loved to be Olympic champion but I never had this goal because I knew it was something impossible. I am too realistic! After this, I have no regrets nor dreams, I did everything I could except as a player.

LOK@S: Apart from being a notorious placer, What else has basketball brought to Cathy Melain both, as a sportswoman and as a person?

Cathy: The reputation is something I am not looking for and basketball taught me this!!! After, like everybody, it taught me that when you want something, it won't come alone. I am not afraid to work a lot if I am motivated.

LOK@S: Do you still remember why you began playing basketball?

Cathy: I remember why I began, because I followed a friend, but I never find the answer to "why I am loving basketball"!!!! I just love it…..

LOK@S: Do you remember what were your dreams when you begun playing?

Cathy: My dreams were to do the Olympics and to play in Italy. I did both…. Why playing in Italy? because when I started to be curious about basket it was the best place!

LOK@S: Who will you always thank their support throughout the years?

Cathy: Of course my parents! They gave me the opportunity to do what I wanted, supported me, always reminded me the priority in life, show me the greatness of life, pushed me to follow my dream and gave me all their love. And seeing them proud and happy, it is the best thing I did in my life.

LOK@S: And now, when basketball is already over as a player, How is going to be Cathy Melain's life?

Cathy: I hope as interesting and still in basketball. The next 2 years, I will study and then, if everything goes in the good way, I will start coaching a team.

LOK@S: What would you like to accomplish out of the basketball court? What are you pursuing professionally?

Cathy: I have my coaching diploma and I can already work but I continue to study to get a state diploma. This diploma will make me a state agent and I will work as a coach in the French Federation. I will probably start by working with the young players. After I don't know… I need to learn before expecting more.

LOK@S: Well, we hope you accomplish your new goals. Thank you very much and good luck in the future. It's been an honour and a privilege counting on some of your time.

Cathy: Thank you… See you…


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