By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – At a press conference on Sunday, September 18th, Brazil’s Minister of Sport, Leonardo Picciani, celebrated Team Brazil’s Paralympic accomplishments at the recently concluded Rio 2016 Paralympics. Minister Picciani also revealed the federal government’s new ten-year sports initiative that aims to further improve the country’s Olympic and Paralympic performance for Tokyo 2020 and beyond.
Though dropping one spot in the medal table compared to London 2012, from seventh to eighth, Team Brazil, in the Rio 2016 Paralympics, almost doubled its medal count from four years earlier. The host nation closed out the Paralympic Games with 72 medals, 14 golds, 29 silvers and 29 bronzes. In London 2012, Brazilian para-athletes won a total of 43 medals.
“I want to thank Brazil’s Paralympic athletes for their extraordinary achievements, which have filled us with pride and admiration,” exclaimed the Minster to the roomful of journalists.
Picciani noted that Team Brazil accomplished several goals in the Games, one of which included winning at least one medal on each day of the eleven-day competition, which began on September 7th and ended on September 18th.
Another goal was to win medals in competitions that the country had previously never won. “We won our first silver and bronze in road cycling, as well as other unprecedented medals in table tennis and weightlifting,” Picciani expressed proudly. “In total, there were 32 medals we had never won before.”
In addition, the Rio 2016 Paralympics also had, for Team Brazil, the best performance ever by the country’s female Paralympians. Brazilian women won nineteen of the host team’s 72 medals.
Importantly, according to the Minister, every Brazilian Paralympian who reached the podium during the 2016 Games received a bolsa atleta (athletic grant) from the federal government.
Following the team’s most recent success, Minister Picciani revealed that the Ministry of Sports will establish a ten-year national sports initiative that includes coordinated public and private actions to develop three key areas: “high-performance sport,” “participation and leisure for the general population,” and “sports education,” with the latter focusing on children and youth.
Looking ahead to 2020, “[W]e want Tokyo 2020 to be even better than Rio 2016, which was already much better than our participation in London 2012,” said Picciani. “Tokyo 2020 will certainly be even better.”