RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Forget Neymar and Pele. Children in Rio de Janeiro are lifting their sights and their swords to new idols as a round of fencing workshops takes to public schools.
The International Fencing Federation (FIE), together with Brazilian and state federations, will reach 40 public schools in March and April, visiting two each day.
The aim of the project is to whip up a following for the Olympic sport, little known in this soccer-mad nation, as Rio gears up for the Summer Games in August.
Students take to the sport well, hoping to emulate the quick-footed heroes they grew up with in movies, says coach Arno Schneider.
“Children have that dream of the sword fights that they see in films, in Zorro, Romeo and Juliet - a duel very similar to what we have in this sport,” he says.
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Those taking part in the project get free tickets to the Fencing Grand Prig and to the World Championships in the Arena Carioca 3 venue in late April, an official Olympic test event.
With a newfound enthusiasm for the sport, 12-year-old Cacique da Silva Felicia says he will be the first one rooting for Olympic fencers when the Games come to Brazil.
“I thought it was really cool, I would like to do it again if there were another opportunity,” he says. “When (the Games) come to Rio, I’ll be here cheering for Brazil.”
Reporting by Sergio Moraes; Writing by Antonia Eklund; Editing by Tom Heneghan