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Sharapova cherishing Olympic experience

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Originally published on: 01/08/12 00:00

“You see so many flags, people representing their nations, just a different environment,” the Russian said.  “You see a little bit of it during Fed Cup, but it's quite unique here.”

Sharapova has been impressed by the way Wimbledon was turned into an Olympic venue so quickly. “To see it change so much but still be at Wimbledon, being out on Centre Court, see the changes, feeling the changes in the atmosphere, we weren't really sure how that feeling would transition,” she said. “It's quite different to playing a Grand Slam.”

Although she has lived in the United States from an early age Sharapova has always been proud of her Russian roots. She was one of eight tennis players to carry her country’s flag at the Olympics’ opening ceremony, along with Novak Djokovic (Serbia), Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland), Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland), Horia Tecau (Romania), Max Mirnyi (Belarus) and Stephanie Vogt (Liechtenstein).

“It was extraordinary,” Sharapova said. “I got there quite a few hours before because I wanted to walk around the Olympic Village, as it was my first time. It was like an athletes’ little world.  I don't know how to explain it.  It seemed everyone around, you feel you don't know the person, but you can relate to so much of what they do, how their life is, the work, the dedication they put into their sports. It was just a really nice feeling to just go around and get to know some. Everyone was eating together in the big cafeteria, all getting ready together for the ceremony.

“The ceremony is something I'll cherish for the rest of my life. Growing up, I think I was 10 or so, I was watching the ceremony, and I had this dream. I thought I must be really crazy, but I saw the Russian nation walking out. They had small hats, berets then. I don't remember who was carrying the flag then, but I thought that was so cool. Maybe one day I could do that. As I was walking there, it hit me, that memory of me watching on my small little TV in my room, just being so proud and hoping one day I could be there.”

When Sharapova walked around the village and went into the cafeteria she was mobbed by people asking for photographs. “I felt like a little statue,” she said. “Everyone was coming up and asking politely for a picture. I have so many events I go to where people ask for pictures, but I've never been so happy to take pictures. It's such a unique experience there.”

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