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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Maria Sharapova backs home town for 2014 Olympics bid

Maria Sharapova has backed her former Russian home town to win the right to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, saying she began her tennis career in Sochi after nearly becoming a figure skater.

Maria Sharapova

The 2004 Wimbledon champion was born in Siberia in 1987 before moving to Sochi two years later and spending the next five years in the Black Sea resort.

"Sochi has a big place in my heart... I started my tennis career there," Sharapova told Reuters television ahead of next week's vote to determine the host city. At its July 4 session in Guatemala, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will name the 2014 hosts in a three-way race between Sochi, the Austrian city of Salzburg and South Korea's Pyeongchang. "This is just an incredible opportunity for the athletes who play winter sports," said U.S. Open champion Sharapova, who was made an ambassador for Sochi's Olympic bid earlier this year.

"The Olympics used to be my favourite to watch. I probably watch more Olympics (sport) than I watch actual tennis matches. "I used to love figure skating and gymnastics because they were two very popular sports in Russia and I always wanted to be a figure skater when I was young so this is actually pretty coincidental," she added. "So I am very honoured to be a part of it and be an ambassador for it." The Florida-based Russian said she was trying to convince all her friends to come and visit Sochi. "My message is to get around the world how great the place really is and it would be an incredible legacy to bring the Winter Olympics to our country, considering our country's achievements in winter sports," she said.

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