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Post Rio Olympics, shooting gets the cold shoulder

Like the massive arenas built for the spectacle that remain unused, several Brazilian shooters too are a neglected bunch post Games.

Written by Mihir Vasavda | New Delhi |
March 3, 2017 1:07:38 am
Julio Almeida, Brazilian shooter, Rio Olympics 2016, rifle shooting, Brazilian rifle shooters, sports news, indian express sports Julio Almeida is considering a move to Portugal.

Julio Almeida was convinced the Rio Olympics was the best thing to happen to his city. Rather, country. An event of this magnitude, he knew, would leave behind some mess. But the positives would easily outweigh the negatives, he was convinced. Like most other Olympic officials, he would point at the Deodoro neighborhood as an example of the impact of the Games.

Deodoro is among Rio’s poor suburbs but the construction of the shooting, hockey and equestrian events uplifted the locality.

Six months on, though, Almeida feels cheated. It’s an emotion he says most Cariocas feel. Almeida, 47, is among the top Brazilian shooters. “I was convinced our sport would benefit by hosting the Olympics. We even won a medal,” he says. “But the Olympics have ended and our sport is practically finished.”

At Rio 2016, Brazil won its first Olympic medal in shooting since the 1920 Games. It was won by their half-Chinese, half-Brazilian shooter Felipe Wu, a silver medal in the 10m air pistol. There were hopes of the sport’s funding being increased. But barely a month after the Games ended, the shooters received a cryptic message from their federations. “They said they have no money,” Wu, 24, says. “I don’t know who ‘they’ is – the government or federation. It’s normal that the sport would become popular after you win a medal. But not here.”

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Wu hasn’t returned to the site of his biggest triumph since the Olympics. Not because he does not want to. But the range itself has been shut. Almeida says a bizarre confusion in the lead up to the Olympics meant the range at Deodoro Park was left without the targets after the Olympics. The organizing committee, he says, initially decided to rent the target for the Olympics assuming it would be cheaper but not realizing that the old ones were in a poor condition. “So after the fall of the president, the new sports minister thought it would be better to purchase them,” Almeida says.

In the interim, the Swiss company from whom they had rented the targets had sold the ones used in Rio to another customer. So Brazil had to wait. The new targets are yet to arrive. “They opened the range a few weeks ago but still with the old targets,” Almeida says.

This wasn’t the only shooting facility which was shut. Almeida, who is with the Brazilian Navy, says the Naval range in Rio has also been shut since the Olympics. “Right now, Brazil is going through a moment of difficulty. I think they spend a lot of money for the Olympics. It’s normal. But they spent more money on the corrupt,” Almeida, a Pan-American Games gold medallist in 50m air pistol, says.

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It wasn’t supposed to pan out this way for Brazil. Wu and Almeida have been the country’s two best shooters globally, having won medals at important competitions. The funding for the shooters increased a year and a half before the Olympics, Wu says, which allowed them to hire renowned coaches, nutritionists and other support staff.

But after the Games, all help stopped. Neither of the shooters can understand the reason for this. Cesar Cassio, a rifle shooter, says the slump was expected but not to this level. “It’s normal to experience this for some time after hosting a big event. You spend so much for Olympics so after that, you don’t have the same money left. But this is a tough time for us. Not just for shooting, but overall,” Cassio says.

The financial slowdown, which the shooters say was exaggerated by hosting the Games, is forcing some of them to relocate. Almeida, who is expecting his third child in April, is considering moving to Portugal. “The facilities for shooting are better there and the cost of living is low as well. If I move, I will continue shooting for Brazil because to change that, I will have to wait for two years. But I can move to Portugal and train there because there is nothing here,” says the 47-year-old retired Navy officer.

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The predicament Brazil finds itself in is perhaps the reason several countries have backed out from hosting the Olympics. Hungary were the latest nation to withdraw their bid for the 2024 Games, following the footsteps of Italy and Germany. A couple of days ago, it was reported that Durban too might drop out as the host of the 2022 CWG after South Africa’s sports minister Fikile Mbalula said the ‘country does not have that kind of money.’

Wu understands why countries are hesitant to host an Olympics. “There is a change (in Brazil) sure,” he says. “But maybe for the worst.”

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First published on: 03-03-2017 at 01:07:38 am
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