D’Almeida ready to make Brazil fall in love with archery
Archery is still establishing itself as a popular sport in Brazil but, if Marcus D’Almeida has anything to do with it, that might be about to change quickly – starting at Rio 2016.
“I really want to be an ambassador for archery’s development in Brazil,” the 18-year-old prodigy says. “I want to see lots of children taking part in archery, because sport is part of your education. If one day I can be an ambassador for this sport it would be my greatest achievement and I will be extremely happy. Archery has changed my life for the better and I hope it could do that for many others in this country.”
D’Almeida is certainly a shining example to learn from. Since taking up the sport six years ago he has amassed a sizeable number of honours on a global scale. In 2014 he became the youngest ever qualifier for an Archery World Cup final and promptly won the silver medal; he also won three golds at the South American Games in the same year but the highlight came in Nanjing, at the Youth Olympic Games, where another silver medal confirmed that he is one of the most exciting talents around.
“I worked a whole year preparing myself for Nanjing,” he says. “I wanted that to be the peak of my career so far, and it was. [It meant that] I did well in an archery tournament played using the Olympic system, which was different from the other competitions I’d played in. It was a series of one-on-one matches, and winning the silver medal showed us we are doing something right.”
That is certainly the case and Nanjing, as for many other young athletes, proved to be a formative experience for D’Almeida. He speaks glowingly of his time competing in the Youth Olympic Games and believes it can only help him turn on the style in front of a home crowd this August.
“It was perfect,” he says. “The Olympic Village was huge and the things you experience can only be experienced there. It’s magical, unique, and now I can understand why all athletes want to take part in the Olympics. I really think that the experience in Nanjing can help me in Rio, because of all the former Olympic athletes and ambassadors I met there, and all the experience that was shared during the event.”
Despite that optimism, nothing is being taken for granted ahead of Rio 2016. The archers get straight into action on the opening weekend of the Games so there will be little chance to absorb too much of the early atmosphere. D’Almeida says he “won’t even think about anything else”; he has made a stunning start to his career is not predicting a place among the frontrunners just yet.
“It will be hard to repeat those results [from 2014],” he says. “I’m working hard to be at my best during the tournament but I’m not thinking about medals because a lot of great archers will be competing and anything can happen. What I want is to do my best and if that happens I will be pleased and happy.
“Of course I hope it can happen. Every athlete wants an Olympic medal, and I’m no different.”
D’Almeida’s introduction to the sport came via a social project in Maricá, his hometown, which is in Rio de Janeiro state, and it instilled in him a desire to keep on bettering himself – to the extent that he is now a highly-prized sportsman.
“It is a project developed by the Brazilian national archery team and focused on kids, giving them their first contact with the sport,” he says. “Since I took it up I’ve always asked how I can improve myself, how I can become a better archer, so that I can make the best possible of this sport.
“These days things are perfect, I have a lot of support and sponsors. At the beginning it was hard, but things happened naturally. I’ve dedicated a lot of time to get where I am now; the results came, the attention and the media too, and it’s natural that when things go well you have all eyes on you for the next competition. I prepared myself for this day, and now I’m enjoying it.”
The Olympic archery competition will be held in Sambodromo, a venue in downtown Rio that usually sees Brazilian samba schools parade competitive during the famous annual carnival. It is an iconic local venue and has its own challenges for competitors, too. D’Almeida, who competed there in the national championships, cannot wait to return at the Games.
“It will be great,” he says. “It is a famous Rio landmark that will give the archery competition a lot of visibility, and that will only help us. I really liked the choice of Sambodromo.“Usually we shoot arrows in fields where the wind is constant, and you know which way it will blow. In Sambodromo the wind changes a lot and sometimes it is hard to read the direction it will blow in. But I think we will all adapt and make the archery tournament a great one.”