Brazil banking on judokas to boost Rio medal haul

Thu Jul 28, 2016 6:50am EDT
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By Tatiana Ramil

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A considerable part of Brazil's Olympic hopes will rest with its Judo team, whose four medals were the most the nation earned in any sport at the 2012 London Games.

The 14-member team, and in particular the women, are hoping to improve on that mark in Rio de Janeiro and help Brazil end a history of poor medal hauls compared with other large countries.

"Pressure is a positive form of productivity," Ney Wilson, a Brazilian Judo Confederation (CBJ) official, told reporters on Wednesday.

"We say judo is the flagship of Brazilian sport, that's because we're confident in the work we've done and we use this in a positive form, not to pressure the athlete to win but to prepare them to beat their opponents."

The CBJ has spent 20 million reais ($8.7 million) in the last four years on travel alone, money that has come from private patrons, Brazil's Sports Ministry and the Brazilian Olympic Committee.

Brazilian judokas have won 19 Olympic medals, including three gold. They have won a medal in every Olympics since the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

The preparation seems to have paid off. Brazilians have won 12 medals at world championships since 2012, two of them gold - Rafaela Silva in 2013 and Mayra Aguiar in 2014. Aguiar also won bronze at the London Olympics.

"It's natural that I'm considered a medal candidate," said Aguiar. "But I'm aware that nobody wins anything before the competition begins.   Continued...

Rafaela Silva of Brazil reacts during her victory over Poland's Arleta Podolak in their women's under 57kg bronze medal match at the Paris International Grand Slam judo tournament, France, February 6, 2016.  REUTERS/Charles Platiau