At 7 feet tall, Uljana Semjonova dominated international women's basketball throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In eighteen years of international play, she never lost a game. Her teams won two Olympic gold medals (1976, 1980), three FIBA World Championships (1971, 1975, 1983), ten European Cup championships (1968, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1983, and 1985), fifteen USSR championships, sixteen European Club Cup championships, three European Junior Cup championships (1967,1969,1971), one Championship of the Universe (1973), one Ronchetti Cup (1987) and four USSR People's Spartakiade championships (1971, 1975, 1979, 1983).
For most of her career Semjonova played for the Riga TTT (Riga, Latvia) team. She joined TTT as a junior player in 1965 and played on the senior team from 1967 to 1987. In the twilight of her career she played for Tintoretto (Spain) (1987-88) and Valenciennes Orchies (France) (1989)
She made her greatest mark in international competition, however, leading the Soviet national team to complete dominance. At the 1976 Olympics, the first women's basketball competition, Semjonova averaged 19.4 points and 12.4 rebounds a game though her team was so dominant that she rarely spent half her time on the court. Against a strong US team, the Soviet Union rolled to a 112-77 win and Semjonova racked up 32 points and 19 rebounds in just 23 minutes of action.
Semjonova has a well-deserved reputation as a gentle giant, on and off the court. As a player, she was often guarded very aggressively. International referees would often turn a blind eye to dirty play, figuring that the big girl could take care of herself. But both teammates and opponents noted that she never lashed out, focusing only on the job at hand. They also note her courtly and friendly manner.
In the period 1970-1985 she was voted Most Popular Athlete in Latvia twelve times. Since 1991 she has served as chairwoman of the Latvian Olympians Social Foundation. She is also a board member of the Latvian Olympians Club.
In 2007 she told a reporter, "Thanks to the game to which I have devoted my life, I became a celebrity. For that I am thankful to the coaches and the girls with whom fate cast me together in select competition."
Semjonova was the first non-U.S. woman elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (1993). She was part of the inaugural class enshrined in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame as well as the inaugural class of the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2007.
- FIBA article
- Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame entry
- FIBA Hall of Fame bio
- Women's Hall of Fame entry
- Semjonova's social network page (in Latvian)
|Full Name: Uljana Semjonova (Uļana Semjonova in Latvian; Ульяна Ларионовна Семенова in Russian)|
|Birth Name: Iulijaka Semjonova|
|Born: March 9, 1952 in Daugavpils, USSR (present-day Latvia)|
|College: Latvian State Institute of Physical Culture, 1974|
|Height: 7-0 (2.13m)|
|Honors: Order of the Red Banner of Labour (USSR), 1976; Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame; Order of the Three Stars (Latvia), 1995; Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, 1999; Order of Russia, 2006; FIBA Hall of Fame, 2007; 45 championship medals; 15,000 career points|