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US-born Page hopes to live Rio medal dream with Serbia

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Rio de Janeiro (AFP)

Danielle Page, born in the city the US Olympic Committee calls home, is on the verge of living her Olympic women's basketball medal dream -- for Serbia.

The 29-year-old forward who helped the Serbs defeat France 76-68 in last year's European championship final will suit up for Serbia once again Saturday in a rematch with the French for the Rio Games bronze medal.

"The Serbian coaches offered me the opportunity of a lifetime," Page said. "Everyone back home is very excited for me."

The Colorado Springs, Colorado, native had played professionally in France for several years when a rival coach, Marina Maljkovic, made Page an offer she couldn't refuse -- to play for her on the Serbian national squad.

"She saw me play and she offered me the opportunity to get a passport and said the Olympics were an opportunity," Page said.

"I was on board immediately."

Page gained her Serbian citizenship in March of 2015 and helped Serbia win the European crown, her 7.7 points and 6.6 rebounds a game easing any upset feelings about having an US-born player in the team.

"I understand it wasn't really received great at first," Page said. "My experience has been all positive.

"I haven't experienced too much of Serbian culture. The people are very friendly. They will give you the shirt off their back. 'Come in, have a drink.' They are very welcoming.

"Win the European championship and you are Serbian."

Page, who now plays for Hungary's Uniqua Sopron, only spent two months in Serbia last year and two months there this year preparing for Rio.

A victory over France would give Serbia's women their first medal in Olympic history. France captured silver in 2012, losing to the United States in the final.

Page averages 10.7 points and a team-high 5.7 rebounds a game and her seven blocked shots match the most in the Olympics.

"I spend most of my time in France these past few years," Page said. "But it's the fast food I miss most from the States, unfortunately."

Page, who played collegiately at Nebraska, found her first sporting love with football but went from star to bench warmer when she moved to a new school and decided to start basketball because she was tall and wanted to meet people.

"Basketball wasn't my first passion. I got in late in the game," Page said. "I got lucky to have great coaching along the way."

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