Brand awareness contributes to bright prospects for Guatemalan sport
The tears that flowed when Stefanie Brand of Guatemala won her bronze medal in equestrian at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games were far more than the raw emotion of individual pride.
To put her achievement in its true context, this was just the third medal ever won by Guatemala on an Olympic stage. Guatemalan pride and joy were given a further boost in Nanjing when Brand’s team-mate Wilmar Madrid also took a bronze in the men’s shooting competition.
The achievements of these two heralds the dawn of an unprecedented era in Guatemala's Olympic story, a country still feeling the effects of a 36-year civil war that ended in 1996.
“For Guatemala, it's really a huge thing, I never realised that before now," said Brand, whose bronze medal was earned in the international team event.
"We are a small country and we aren't as well developed like the USA, or places in Europe. For us it's really special, unique and a dream come true."
Guatemala's Young Ambassador at Nanjing 2014 is Gabriela Matus, who said there has been a clear change in the attitude to sport in the country over the last few years.
“I think it comes first of all from the NOC [National Olympic Committee]. They are trying to give more support than other years to most of the athletes,” said Matus. “But it's also the national federations. They are giving lots of support.”
Matus said the two Nanjing 2014 Games medallists could expect a large welcome party at Guatemala City airport when they land.
“The other thing I like about Stefanie and Wilmar is that they are not showing off to everybody. They are not saying 'Aha, I won a medal'. They're like 'OK, I will savour it, but I have to go for more’,” added Matus.
Brand hopes to play big part in Guatemala’s Olympic ascendancy. But while she has already made the senior national team, she recognises that the challenge of qualifying for Rio 2016 or Tokyo 2020 means moving up a level and that patience and persistence will be essential.
“In my sport everyone is around 30 years old,” she explains. “You have to work hard for many years. It's my dream, but I'm realistic about when it will happen.”