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Isaquias Queiroz became Brazil’s first canoeing world champion last year, claiming the C-1 500m title at the age 19. Now his focus is on winning his nation’s first Olympic medal in the sport, on home waters at the Rio 2016 Games. It is a task that the youngster makes sound surprisingly simple. “There’s no mystery to canoeing,” he told Rio2016.com. “It’s not like football or basketball, in which the opponent’s performance influences yours. The time an athlete takes in training is the time he’ll take in the competition. The more I train, the more certain we will be that I will do well when it comes to the competitions.”
Queiroz, from the state of Bahia in Brazil’s north east, heads a new generation of Brazilian canoe sprint racers – including Erlon Silva, Ronilson Oliveira and Nivalter Santos – who hope to benefit from home advantage on the beautiful Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas in two years’ time. Queiroz faces an extra challenge in that his preferred event of 500m is not on the Olympic programme, so he is focusing on the 1000m, in which he took bronze at the world championships.
“My training has been more focused on stamina. We divide up the course into 100-metre stretches and I have a goal to achieve in each part. If my performance worsens on one of these stretches, the final time will be longer than it should. Using this method, it’s also easier to detect and correct my weak points.”
Although it officially joined the Olympic programme at the Berlin 1936 Games, canoe sprint did not have its first Brazilian participants until Barcelona 1992, when Leonardo Selbach, Gustavo Selbach, Marlon Grings, Sebástian Cuattrin, Álvaro Koslowski and Jefferson Lacerda competed. Four years later, at the Atlanta Games, Cuattrin obtained Brazil’s best result – eighth place in the K-1 1000m.
“Our goal is to win Brazil’s first medal in canoeing,” said Queiroz. “We have many athletes doing well. Nivalter Santos has the second best time in his field (C-1 200m). We are also doing very well in the C-2, with Erlon Silva and Ronilson Oliveira.”
Ronilson Oliveira and Erlon Silva represented Brazil at the London 2012 Olympic Games (Photo: Getty Images/Mike Hewitt)
Brazilian canoeists are currently focused on the 2015 world championships and the continental Olympic qualifying tournament. As the host nation, Brazil has two guaranteed places in the men’s competition and one in the women’s competition, but the goal is to take the maximum number of participants.
Queiroz knows that for those Brazilian athletes who do qualify for the Rio 2016 Games, the support of the home fans will be a crucial factor. “The fans always provide extra motivation. I remember a competition in which the crowd helped me a lot in the final metres, in a 200m rush to finish the race. I know that, in Rio, the fans will drive me forward a lot.
“Everybody knows Brazilians for our happiness and charisma. Our warm welcome is our strong point. We know how to welcome people like no one else. We know how to receive our visitors very well, always with open arms,” he says.