By Jayme Monsanto, Senior Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – The Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) and the Prefeitura (local government) have just signed a deal to invest more money in young Carioca athletes that have medal potential in the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Time Rio (‘Team Rio’) is the name of the new project, and as a result between ten and thirteen high performance athletes that live or train in Rio will, along with their training team, receive a total investment of R$12 million from now until 2012.
The project was announced on February 3rd at the Palácio da Cidade by mayor Eduardo Paes and head of the COB Carlos Arthur Nuzman. The first four athletes linked to Team Rio were already chosen: Diego Hypólito (gymnastics), Ricardo Winicki (sailing), Kaio Marcio (swimming) and Barbara Leôncio (track).
“The project will help us evolve. Now there is no way the dream of an Olympic medal will not work out. I’m very happy, it is a spectacular project”, said the nineteen year old Barbara confidently, who in 2007 was the 200m world champion in the IAAF World Youth Championships.
The resources will be managed by COB, and will be used mostly to provide support to the chosen athletes; paying coaches, doctors and nutritionists, buying equipment and funding travels to competitions.
“It is a great gift. Every athlete dreams of having a good structure to achieve his best performance. Now I feel I can compete as equal with anyone. Hopefully in London I can harvest the results of that work”, said Kaio Marcio, who, though not a Carioca, has been training in the Rio de Janeiro pools for a year.
“This program is completely dedicated to the athlete, who will not need to give up their current sponsors, since our goals are the same. Team Rio will complement the work these athletes currently do”, said Marcus Vinícius Freire, a COB executive.
More athletes will be announced soon, and plans are afoot to support judo, taekwondo and canoe athletes. Part of the resources will be dedicated to the discovery of new boxers and cyclists. Four new boxing facilities will be created in underdeveloped areas of the city, and the Velódromo do Rio (Rio’s cycling arena), built in 2007 to host events of the Rio 2007 Pan-American Games will be used to consolidate a Carioca cycling team.
“These athletes will be an inspiration for other young people. Winning the right to host the Olympics was a great joy to Rio de Janeiro. In return, the Prefeitura will support even more the Brazilian athletes” said Mayor Paes.