After being eliminated from the 200m race at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, sprinter Vitória Rosa exposes a huge problem for Brazilian athletes: the lack of sponsors
By Marques Travae
Sprinter Vitória Rosa has an impressive track record since she began officially competing in competitions representing Brazil. in 100-meter, 200-meter and 4×100 meter relay races, she has racked up a number of gold, silver and bronze medals as well as first, second and third place finishes in several events. But looking at her success, an assessment I made several days ago seems to apply. Most of her success has been in competitions with other South American countries. When she competes in events outside of South America, the results aren’t as good.
This trend continued in the recent Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Rosa came in sixth place in the 200m dash qualifying heat and thus wasn’t able to advance to the semifinals in Tokyo. But her case, as well as that of other Brazilian athletes could be the result of a dirty little secret that hasn’t been much discussed publicly as much as it needs to be. Rosa spoke out after the race in an emotional statement about the obstacles she’s had to endure in her career during the pandemic, including a lack of sponsorship and a lower income.
“I’m very happy with the race. It was a very difficult year. Although we are in a pandemic, I don’t have a sponsor, have a reduced club salary, and thanks to the Navy, I managed. They didn’t reduce our salaries, I managed to maintain myself and to be here today. I don’t know what else to say,” she said as she choked up in an interview with SporTV.
Speaking of the Navy, Rosa referred to the Programa Olímpico da Marinha (PROLIM – Navy Olympic Program) program of the Brazilian Navy that provides support for athletes competing in 23 different sports. Apparently, the Navy program was the only form of support the athlete received. She also went on to say that the resources often arrived late. Vitória finished the race in 23.59 seconds. Christine Mboma of Namibia finished first clocking in at 22.11s.
“Regardless of the difficulties, we are here to try, and it wouldn’t be fair if we stopped trying. We really wanted to be in the final, as I dreamed, we have been working for years to try, we hope the result will come”, she concluded.
The sprinter also revealed that she suffered a stress injury to her ankle during the Olympic preparation for Tokyo.
”I was training with pain. During the South American Games, some people from the coaching staff didn’t believe in my injury, which was only confirmed in an MRI when I returned to Brazil. They thought I didn’t want to compete, which is not true. I had to treat myself to be here,” concluded Vitória.
Like teammate Carolina Azevedo, who also didn’t qualify for the next round of the tournament, Vitória threw herself into preparing for the women’s 4×100-meter relays. But that also wasn’t meant to be as the Brazilian women’s team composed of Bruna Farias, Ana Cláudia Lemos, Rosângela Santos and Rosa only managed to come in fifth place with a time of 43s15.
Rosa’s comments underline an experience that is all too common with Brazilian athletes. A recent news story verified what Rosa pointed out. Aside from the challenges that all athletes experience, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics exposed the lack of sponsorship and investment in Brazilian athletes.
As a result, many of them are forced to make do with limited infrastructure or split their practice time between multiple occupations. If Brazil is to improve its world athletic performance and Olympic results, it’s a conversation that needs to happen.
It is undeniable that an athlete’s performance in the Olympics is heavily influenced by their country’s willingness to invest in sports, training, and promotion. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the Brazilian athletes competing in Tokyo for medals. A tweet containing depressing statistics about the players’ regimen went viral, bringing even more attention to the problem.
Globo Esporte conducted research that corroborated the exposed data and provided more exact information. 231 of the 309 Brazilian athletes competing in the 2020 Olympics rely on the Athlete Grant known as Bolsa Atleta, a government-funded incentive that had been in place since 2004 but had no public edict in 2020.
131 don’t rely on sponsors, and 41 were forced to raise funds to travel to Japan. Further, 33 are unable to support themselves solely through athletics and have to take on other occupations.
As a result, the topic is quite timely and deserves to be discussed now, especially during another edition of the Olympics. Small gestures, such as donating to sports-related organizations and voting for political candidates concerned about the issue, can go a long way toward assisting the professional athletes who will go on to represent Brazil in the world’s most important athletic event.
Brazilian Olympians triumph in competitions
Brazil had earned 10 medals at the 2020 Olympics as of early morning August 2, placing it 18th in the overall ranking of competing countries. When we consider the difficult routine and numerous hurdles that Brazil’s Olympic competitors encounter, the result is quite astonishing. Some of the medalists, understandably, represent their country, yet they live and train for their sports in other countries.
Luisa Stefani and Laura Pigossi, for example, are both based in other countries. The bronze medalists in tennis, who brought the country its first Olympic medal in the sport, live in the United States and Spain, respectively. Bruno Fratus, who earned a bronze medal in the 50-meter freestyle swim, also resides in the United States.
After his exuberant celebration on Sunday (1), boxer Herbet Sousa became well-known. Following his victory over his opponent, the Bahian progressed to the semifinals, then the final, where he won the gold with a sensational knockout.
“I am an Olympic medalist. I deserve it. We work our asses off! This is Brazil, this is Bahia, Salvador”, shouted the athlete. Given the difficulties they have overcome to get there, nothing could be more appropriate than the joy of victory.
Women are more affected
It’s no surprise that Vitória Rosa is one of the athletes who spoke out about a lack of funding. The reality is far worse for women, according to UN Women Brazil. Women’s sports are consistently underestimated, despite the fact that they are the majority without financial support.
Further demonstrating the issue, the institution presented a startling statistic: during the World Cup, the bonuses for participating teams differed significantly. The men’s teams, who numbered 32, received $400 million, while the women’s teams, that had 24, received only $30 million.
One of the most glaring examples of this inequality is Marta, the captain of Brazil’s women’s soccer squad. The player, who has been regarded as the best women’s player in the world six times, also has no sponsors. Only the insignia of the “Go Equal” campaign, which advocates for gender equality in sports, can be seen on her cleats. Marta, like so many other athletes, wishes to be compensated fairly for her efforts.
At the conclusion of this article, Brazilian athletes had won a total of 21 medals, seven of which were gold, placing Brazil at number 12 among competing countries in both gold and total medals. This is a far cry from the 113 total and 39 gold for the United States, 88 and 38, 58 and 27 for China and Japan respectively.
Considering the fact that nearly 90 countries sent athletes to compete in Tokyo, Brazil actually did quite well. But it’s also a shame to know that the country’s athletes could fair much better if they were to receive the support they needed to compete on a global level.