10 MAY 2007

The little-known Black Sea resort of Sochi has one beautiful advantage in its bid to host the 2014 winter Olympics, in the form of its most famous sporting star - Maria Sharapova. The 20-year-old former Wimbledon champ and world number two, held a press conference in Beverly Hills this week to announce her support as an ambassador for the 2014 bid. She says her love of tennis began when she was four years old and living in Sochi, her home for five years.

"Sochi is an amazing city and I don't think a lot of people realise it will be such an incredible experience," she enthuses. "It's a beautiful city and I'm so proud of it. I always tell my friends in America 'I want to take you there, I want to show you where I grew up'."

The stunning athlete, who has had to pull out of the Italian Open next week due to a shoulder injury, left her hometown for America to develop her tennis skills, as it didn't offer sufficient facilities in winter.

She is hoping that if Sochi wins against the other candidates - Salzburg in Austria and the South Korean resort of Pyeongchang - future generations of sporting stars won't have to leave their country and city to train. While throwing her efforts into supporting the Sochi campaign, she's also striving to get fighting fit for the French Open later this month. "I just want my fans to know that I am doing everything possible to play at the French open," says Maria, who currently holds the US Open title.

Photo: ©
The leggy blonde tennis champ adds star quality to her Sochi hometown's winter Olympic bid during a press conference in LA. The winning city will be announced on July 4 in Guatemala Photo: © Getty ImagesClick on photo to enlarge
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