Viegas poses with her medal on arrival at Malaga Airport on Monday evening. / MIGUE FERNÁNDEZ

'My life would be empty if I didn't play basketball' says record-breaking teenager

The 16-year-old from San Pedro now has several scholarship offers from US universities and dreams of playing in the WNBA

MARINA RIVAS MALAGA.

Carla Viegas is pure contrast: intimidating and 200% confidence on the basketball court; but off it she is a shy teenager who never stops smiling and finds it hard to talk about herself. But this 16-year-old from San Pedro Alcántara (who plays for CAB Estepona) is the surprise star of the Spanish under-17 women's basketball team, who have just come second in the World Cup, losing the final to USA, in Hungary. She contributed to their success by setting a new record for three-pointers in this competition (23/51, 45.1% in the basket). She spoke to SUR on her return to Malaga, silver medal in hand.

–I imagine you're still in a cloud so soon after the final.

–Yes, yes, I still can't believe what we've just done.

–How did you feel in the final?

–We went out onto the court without fear, ready to fight and make life difficult for the US. We couldn't beat them in the end but we fought hard.

–But just reaching the final is a great feat. Did you expect to?

–We're really happy. We didn't expect it, especially in the round-of-16 game against Mali, which was so tight... and then when we beat France in the semis, it was crazy!

–This year couldn't have been better for you. Personal bests in the league, where you were also the highest three-point scorer in the category, and now this medal...

–It's been crazy, I didn't expect half of what we've been through and what we've done.

–And you've achieved the three-pointer record for the entire World Cup!

–Really? [laughs]. How cool, I didn't know that, I can't believe it.

–What has been the most special moment for you in this tournament?

–There have been a lot of moments. The Egypt players surprised us, as they were so much fun; we've met people from all over the world... But for me the most important moment was when we won the semi-final; I couldn't sleep that night. It was incredible.

–Do you have a lucky charm?

–I have a bright green hair bobble that I had from when CAB Estepona played in that colour. I've worn it since I was in the mini category. But for Spain everything has to be the same colour, so I had to cover it up.

–Many who didn't know you have been surprised by your ability to score three-pointers, but your followers know that it was your father, the ex-player Dani Viegas, who got you involved in basketball and helped you shoot.

–When I was around ten I'd go to the courts opposite my house (in San Pedro) to shoot baskets with my dad. We started with the smallest basket and up close and gradually moved further away.

–The number of hours you spend basketball training every day is impressive: with the team, separate shooting sessions and competitions. One of the biggest problems in women's sport is that girls tend to give it up, especially at your age or when they leave school. Have you ever considered giving up?

–No, never, I've always been sure about that. I love competing, I love that feeling that I have to play and compete, or face being knocked out, or whatever... I like finishing school and knowing I have to train. I try to finish my homework quickly to start training on time. On the days when I don't train or have a competition I feel empty. I think my life would be empty without basketball.

–People will be asking you now about your future. Are you going to carry on playing for Estepona or will you go to train and study in the US?

–I've still got a year of school left and I'd like to stay here for another year.

–And then cross the pond? I remember you saying before that your dream would be to play in the WNBA. Is it still?

–Yes, for any player, playing in the WNBA is a dream. If only.

-Have you had offers of scholarships?

-Yes, I've already had a lot, but I haven't made my mind up yet.

-What attracts you to America?

-There basketball is high up, on another level. There are a lot of people to help you, incredible sports facilities and they help you train and study and that's more complicated here.