THE first of the over 300 athletes, set to compete at this weekend’s (June 3 – 4) South American Junior Championships being held right here, began arriving at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) in Guyana on Wednesday afternoon, already in high spirits as they look ahead to competing at the international meet.
The first 66 persons from six countries arrived at 14.00hrs, while a Bolivian athlete was scheduled to arrive later that evening. Another 95 persons were set to arrive on Thursday. With a 38-man contingent, Brazil fielded one of the largest team travelling to the Championships, and team coach, Fernando Reis, boasted that the Portuguese are here to take home as many medals as possible.
Saying that the team is also happy to see the Championships being hosted in Guyana.
“Brazil very happy, because first time in Guyana. It’s different for us, the culture is close to Brazil (but still) very different. The guys are very happy; to have a change of Championships is good for us. We promise champions, everybody champion. We have good athletes, maybe two, four athletes (will go) to the world championships, (and) World Youth Championships in Kenya. It’s a good change,” Reis said.
Brazil are the defending champions of the biennial event; clearing 39 medals including 17 gold the last time the Championships was held in Ecuador. That year, Ecuador finished second place with 31 medals, including 13 gold.
Reis has already singled out sprinter Lorraine Barbosa Martins as one of his standout athlete from whom much can be expected and will be delivered. He explained that the lineup is largely made up of seasoned athletes who have performed at a South American Junior Championships before.
A 20-man delegation from Argentina also arrived yesterday making them the second largest team; two other Argentineans were set to arrive on Thursday. Five persons arrived from Colombia on Wednesday, and another 21 were scheduled to touch down in the Land of Many Waters at 14:00hrs on Thursday.
With just five persons, Uruguay will have one of the smallest teams at the Championships. Two of the athletes arrived Wednesday and the other three persons are scheduled to arrive later tonight on the same flight with 8 persons from the Chilean team.
Sharing that athletics is not such a widespread sport in Uruguay, athlete Mateo Pascual said that sourcing athletes for their team was somewhat of a challenge for the Spanish-speaking country. Nonetheless, he looks forward to doing well in his events – the Boys’ 200m and 400m – coming in with a season’s best of 21.91 seconds and 48.54 seconds respectively.
“Me personally I’m hoping to go to the 400m final, and improve both of my timings.” Pascual said.
The athletes were taken via police escort to the Princess Ramada Hotel on the East Bank of Demerara, where all the athletes will be housed during their stay.
Also arriving on Thursday were athletes from Suriname, Ecuador Paraguay and Peru.
(Tamica Garnett )