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Khryapa bids farewell to Team Russia

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Thirty-one-year-old European champion, Olympic bronze medalist decides to retire from the national team.

Decorated CSKA Moscow forward Viktor Khryapa decided to retire from the Russian national team, putting an end to speculations about his potential return to the squad that he helped win three medals over the last six years.

Following CSKA’s Euroleague game against Partizan Belgrade last Thursday, Khryapa told Moscow’s Sport Express daily newspaper that his return to the national team was “highly unlikely.” On Monday, he officially announced his retirement after a 10-year service that saw him compete in four European championships, two Olympics and one world championship.

In his interview carried by Sport Express Tuesday, the forward said he had made up his mind in the summer and added that the decision was influenced by a multitude of factors. “It’s difficult to single something out. Fatigue, the tendency to rejuvenate the national team, the load I carry at my club,” replied Khryapa when asked to identify the reasons that swayed his decision.

Two weeks ago, the 6-9 forward notified newly appointed head coach of Russia Yevgeny Pashutin that he would not return to the national team.

“Pashutin accepted my decision with understanding,” said Khryapa, adding the coach also invited him to come to Russia’s future games and support the team as a fan. Russia’s worst post-Soviet era finish at the EuroBasket in Slovenia three months ago shut the door to next year’s FIBA World Cup in Spain, leaving a wild card bid as the only remaining option to secure a berth in the tournament. In June, Khryapa decided to skip the EuroBasket, citing fatigue from the non-stop playing since 2011 as the main reason behind his decision.

Commenting on Khryapa’s decision in Sport Express Tuesday, Pashutin refused to disclose the player’s explanation of his motives to call it quits.

“I don’t want to talk about it in the press. But it’s normal when celebrated players who have already contributed a lot to the national team make those kinds of decisions. They have to perform at top level 11 months in a year over many years. We should also not be forgetting Viktor’s health issues, he’s career has been riddled with numerous injuries and surgeries,” Pashutin told the paper.

Russia’s Basketball Federation chiefs recently unveiled the future plan to penalize players whose motives to refuse to wear the national team’s jersey are deemed “unjustifiable.”

“I think that’s an absolutely wrong approach. The national team is the country’s pride, and players should want to be part of it [without any nudging]. [Former Russia coach David] Blatt always used to say that he was expecting everyone in the team, but only if they wanted to play. All the success that we achieved in recent years was accomplished when each player made a voluntary decision to join the team. If you start forcing somebody to play, no one knows what kind of performance they’d give,” commented Khryapa.

Since his debut at the 2002 FIBA World Championship in Indianapolis, Khryapa had played 67 official games, averaging 8.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He was instrumental in Russia’s biggest successes in recent years that include the memorable win at EuroBasket 2007 in Spain, a bronze medal at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania and the third-place finish at last year’s London Olympics, Russia’s first Olympic medal since becoming again an independent nation.

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