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Carioca William Muinhos was 13 when he saw on TV the commotion in Afogados da Ingazeira, a district with 35 thousand inhabitants in Pernambuco backlands in Brazil’s northeast region, his grandfather’s homeland. The year was 2007, and Afogados’ most prominent resident, pentathlete Yane Marques, celebrated Brazil’s first gold medal in the Modern Pentathlon, a feat in the history of Pan-American Games.
That was the boy’s first contact with the sport imagined by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Modern Olympic Games, based on the legend of the Messenger. It is said that in the beginning of the XIX Century, during Napoleon’s invasions in Europe, a messenger was assigned to take a notice beyond the enemy lines. He should be prepared to ride an unknown horse and, if the animal got shot, he should be able to swim and run as fast as he could until reaching his destination. To fight the enemies, he had to be able to shoot and defend himself with his sword.
Maybe due to the lack of invasions, wars or threats, truth is that neither the legend nor the sport was systematically practiced in Brazil until the 90’s, except for a few fans of the five disciplines which compose the complex set of physical and mental requirements: Swimming, Running, Fencing, Equestrian and Shooting.
With the victory of Yane Marques, the result of the work of an Army Major who was a coach with a passion for the sport, Alexandre França, Pentathlon arrived, for the first time, to the large communication vehicles in Brazil. The result introduced the sport to the country of the Rio 2007™ Pan-American Games and Rio 2016™ Olympic Games.
“The structure, which has been partially implemented for 2016 in the Deodoro Zone, is a legacy of the Pan; however, the most important legacy of the event to Brazil’s Pentathlon was Yane’s victory. More attention from the media and thereby from the public generates deeper knowledge and more resources. The difference between the preparation for Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and, in future, Rio 2016™, due to the most diverse resources available, including financial, scientific and interchange resources, is abyssal. It is a vertiginous increasing curve”, França affirms.
Dreaming with both feet on the ground
The projects structured in Recife, the capital of Pernambuco, and in Rio de Janeiro prepare young athletes with a promising future such as that of William Muinhos. As the Brazilian representative at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games, he undertakes the difficult transition from the Youth A and Junior categories to the senior category, which gathers the adult athletes. Practicing sports for three years, he disputes his first competitions among Olympic and world champions.
“Today in Brazil, I am one of the best shooters. In the Youth A World Championship, I was the best shooter. And my coach always says: ‘Don’t you think Yane is there at night, practicing her isometrics (exercise of holding the gun)?’. She surely does. So, we find out about some little secrets and try to repeat them”, the biggest Brazilian promise for 2016 comments.
Among the ten best in the world ranking, Yane Marques has short-term goals. The medal in London 2012 is a dream with both feet on the ground. She made it to the third position in last year’s ranking. Aware that she is a reference in a country whose sport growth potential is one of the world’s largest, she has been building her way on solid ground.
“When I first started, there were only a few professional athletes around here, who trained for pleasure, amateurism in the pure sense of the word. I came from Swimming, kept improving my results in the other disciplines and investing in my career. Today my work is focused on London. I believe all 36 classified athletes have chances to win. Anything can happen. We have seen athletes leading the first competitions and suddenly falling from their horses during the jump, thereby losing their scores. Victory depends on several things. I can only promise hard work and determination”, says the 28-year athlete. “For Rio 2016™, all I want is to be there. Nothing could be more valuable than this”.
For Alexandre França, identifying the good swimmer is the first step to encourage the practice of Modern Pentathlon. If there is no horse phobia, it is possible to teach the other disciplines by phases, degree by degree. In Brazil, from Rio de Janeiro and from Afogados da Ingazeira, without disputes or invasions, the biggest resources are human. Starting from scratch and reaching the top is a common message, which continues to be taken with passion.