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Brazil seeks top 10 finish in Rio 2016 medal tally

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-04-26 16:03
RIO DE JANEIRO - Since September 2009 when Rio de Janeiro was chosen to host the 2016 Olympic Games, the Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) has worked to ensure local athletes will be ready to bring back a sizeable medal haul.

Brazil has set the official target of being in the top 10 in the final medal tally, a real challenge as the country finished 22nd in 2012, with 3 gold, 5 silver and 9 bronze medals.

In an exclusive interview, Marcus Vinicius Freire, the COB's executive director for sports, thinks this challenge is difficult, but not impossible. To achieve it, Brazil has created a strategic plan since 2009, with Freire saying "everything is going as planned."

"We have been offering our athletes their best ever preparation over the last three years. Brazilian sport has continued to evolve. Between 2013 and 2015, Brazil has won 67 medals in the world championships of Olympic sports, 27 more than in the previous Olympic cycle. We have been on the podium for 15 sports in the last three years, which makes us confident that we will break into the top 10 for the final medal tally at the Rio Games," he explained.

The country has 428 guaranteed Olympic spots, with 120 of the athletes already set. Freire explains that athletes will continue to compete until July to claim their Olympic berths.

In the preparation for the Olympic Games at home, Brazil has invested around 700 million reais ($197 million) from 2012 to 2016, most of it coming from a law that says that two percent of spending from federal lotteries will go to the COB (85 percent) and the Brazilian Paralympic Committee (15 percent).

This investment has included the hiring of foreign coaches. Freire explained that the COB believes the participation and experience of foreign coaches is crucial to athletes.

"We currently have 40 foreign coaches in 23 different disciplines, working with the Brazilian teams. We are very happy with the results, including Spain's Jesus Mortan, who helped our canoeing team win, Russia's Alexander Alexandrov, who is transforming our female artistic gymnastics and Croatia's Ratko Rudik, who is making our water polo team one of the best in the world," said the executive.

Asked which new sports he expects Brazilians to reach the podium in, Freire said that a lot of focus has been given to new sports, such as handball, archery, canoeing, marathon swimming, and the modern pentathlon.

For Freire, having the Olympics at home offers advantages, but athletes may feel the pressure differently.

"Professional athletes are used to the pressure. Competing at home during Rio 2016 will bring a series of advantages, such as the climate, the support of the people, and being close to home, among others. Furthermore, the COB has created a council, comprised of the best coaches of the country, to discuss actions to help reduce pressure. We also continuously work with a group of psychologists to help our athletes. Our objective is to highlight the positives and minimize the negatives of competing at home," he explained.

While Brazil is known as being obsessed with football, Freire believes the COB's planning will allow Brazilians to know and practise new and varied sports. Freire stated that all disciplines are benefiting from the Olympic Games as all institutions, including the COB, the Ministry of Sports, National Olympic and Paralympic Committees, the armed forces, clubs, and sponsors, have united to develop Olympic preparations.

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