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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Streetball Players Shoot for Paris

Almost 2,000 participants, ranging in age from 12 to 20, came to Moscow to show their skills in the annual Adidas Streetball Challenge tournament over the weekend.

During the three-day competition, which started Friday, Manezh Square was transformed into a mammoth basketball court, with boys' and girls' pick-up teams from regions across the country battling each other for the right to represent Russia in the World Streetball Finals next month in Paris.

Of the 732 regional teams invited, only some 620 squads actually made it to Moscow; some of the participants from Russia's Far East and Siberia couldn't raise money for the trip.

The unpredictable Moscow weather also played a few tricks with the tournament schedule. Heavy rain Saturday led to cancellation of most of the games and sent players and spectators scampering for cover. By mid-day Saturday, much of the crowd at Manezh Square was gone, leaving only several dozen diehards, rooting for their friends and relatives.

The weather wasn't the only problem Saturday; popular American rap artist Coolio gave local organizers a headache when he didn't show up for a scheduled appearance.

In his absence, another rap group, Run DMC, performed as part of the worldwide program "Musicians Against Drugs."

But despite inclement weather and organizational snafus, many in the young audience were thrilled.

"It's too bad that the weather spoiled our plans to see more of the games," said Lena, 15, who along with two of her teenage girlfriends was heading for the nearest metro.

"But it was still nice to watch so many tall, good-looking guys with muscular bodies out here."

On Sunday, the weather cooperated as early morning clouds gave way to a sunny afternoon, and the crowd was much bigger than on Saturday.

The boy's teams from the provincial towns of Ufa and Ryazan surprised their more heralded opponents from bigger cities by surviving a tough battle and making it into the final, with Ufa scoring a convincing 10-3 victory after 20 minutes of play.

In the girl's competition, the home team prevailed in a grueling three-day test. The Muscovites edged out the team from St. Petersburg 16-9 to take the grand prize.