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After six appearances at the Olympic Games, Brazilian table tennis icon Hugo Hoyama decided the London 2012 Games would be his last. But the 44-year-old from São Paulo has not turned his back on Brazil’s Olympic dreams. Now he has a new goal: preparing Brazil’s women table tennis players for the Rio 2016 Games.
Last year, Hoyama became the coach of the women’s national team, with the aim of passing his immense experience and knowledge on to the young players. A member of the Brazil national team since 1985, Hoyama represented his country in every Olympic Games from Barcelona 1992 to London 2012. He is Brazil’s joint record holder in terms of Olympic appearances, along with sailor Torben Grael and show jumper Rodrigo Pessoa. Hoyama also won 15 Pan American Games medals, including 10 golds.
While he will continue to compete in national competitions, his career has entered a new, more mature, phase.
“After the London Games, I reduced my training pace and so I knew that my performance would no longer be the same,” Hoyama said. “Therefore, I concluded that the best way to keep helping Brazilian table tennis would be to work as a coach. I’m very excited about transferring my knowledge to the girls and helping the Brazil national team to be very successful.
“We have been able to participate in many competitions, that’s a good thing, and we had positive results in the Latin American Championships as well as an important victory in the World Championships – Caroline Kumahara beat an athlete who was among the top 10 in the world (Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa, ranked ninth in the world).
“It was a crucial year for me to adapt to this new role and establish a coaching relationship with the athletes who, until last year, saw me as a training companion.”
In 2014, the main competitions will be the South American Games, the Latin American Championships and the World Championships. In the longer term, the focus is the Rio 2016 Games and beyond.
“This year, we want to take the athletes outside Brazil for two or three training periods, which will be very important for their growth,” Hoyama said. “In 2015, our goal is to win the gold medal in the Pan American Games (in Toronto). Thinking of a medal in the Olympic Games is still a bit distant for Brazilian women’s table tennis, but we are able to play an important role, achieve important victories and continue to improve.”
Having taken part in Olympic Games on four different continents, Hoyama believes the energy and warmth of the Brazilian people will make the Rio 2016 Games different.
“I’m sure everything will work perfectly,” he said. “I’m a member of the Rio 2016 Sport Advisory Committee and I have been following the whole evolution closely. Brazilians are a warm people who know how to host others well and are very fond of cheering.”