December 7, 2008

Brazilian Gymnastics Federation to Change Leadership

We always knew gymnastics was popular in Brazil (the fact that Brazilian TV broadcasts every single World Cup competition live speaks volumes), but we didn't realize just how popular the sport was in the South American country until we saw that Globoesporte had devoted an entire article to the Brazilian Gymnastics Federation's upcoming presidential elections, complete with an overview of the two candidates' opinions on a number of issues. Be honest now - have you ever come across an article like that in a sports magazine in your country? Because we certainly haven't.

The reason why the Brazilian Federation's elections are relevant is because, as those of you who've been reading our articles for a while now know, things haven't been well in the Federation lately. A few months ago, Jade Barbosa accused the Federation of, among other things, overworking its gymnasts and neglecting their injuries. Her allegations were confirmed by a number of other gymnasts. Many of the gymnasts' accusations were leveled at Eliane Martins, the current coordinator of the national team, whose mandate is about to end and who will not seek re-election. Her boss, the current president of the Federation, is about to be replaced as well. Needless to say, there's great interest in the new leadership and its plans to redeem the Federation's tarnished reputation.

Jade Barbosa at the national training center in Curitiba. We promise we'll stop posting pics of Jade crying now. (Photo: Reuters)

Below you'll find a very loose translation of the Globoesporte article on the candidates and their ideas on how to get the Brazilian Gymnastics Federation back on track after the scandal.

Federation's presidental candidates propose "reconciliation" with gymnasts

This Sunday the Federation will change leadership after 17 years under Vicélia

This Sunday, after 17 years under the command of Vicélia Florenzano, the Brazilian Gymnastics Federation will elect a new president. The new director, who will take the Federation into the Olympic cycle leading up to London 2012, will have to tackle two great challenges: Firstly, to ensure the continued evolution of the sport in Brazil, and secondly, to "clean up" the organization's image after its conflicts with the country's top gymnasts.

The two candidates for the vacancy have at least one thing in common: They are both connected to the parting president, Vicélia Florenzano. This is because Marco Martins, president of the Brasília Gymnastics Federation, has been a member of the Brazilian Gymnastics Federation for 10 years and used to be the vice-president of the Federation (he left in 2006 due to differences of opinion with the president). As for Maria Luciene Resende, a former president of the Sergipe Gymnastics Federation, she has been the vice-president of the Federation for the last 3 years.

One of the many things on which the two candidates agree is their willingness to use dialog in order to bring about a reconciliation with Jade Barbosa, Daiane dos Santos, and Laís Souza. After the Beijing Olympics, Barbosa accused the Federation of submitting her to extremely heavy workouts, and received support from her two friends. At present, all three gymnasts are recuperating from injuries.

Jade Barbosa's hands (photo: Reuters)

"Dialog is the best way to go about it. People know what is going on, but these are solvable problems. Our management will be actively involved in the process. We know our responsibility is to look after our athletes, and we intend to get together with them to solve all the problems," Maria Luciene Resende told Globoesporte on the phone.

Marco Martins endorsed the words of his rival and admitted that effecting a reconciliation would be a complicated job.

"It will be a lot of work. Therefore, one of the first things we'll create will be a national gymnastics forum, to discuss our relationship with everyone and to establish a solution for these problems. I'm a great believer in talking things over," Martins told Globoesporte.

The two candidates agree on other things as well. Such as the team's new head coach. Now that Oleg Ostapenko has returned to Ukraine, both candidates are thinking of leaving his assistant, fellow Ukrainian Irina Ilyashenko, in charge of the national team. Moreover, they both emphasize the importance of seeking other foreign coaches and preparing Brazilians to work with the team in the future.

Irina Ilyashenko, Brazil's new head coach? (Photo: Murilo Garavello/UOL)

Moreover, both candidates agree that the management of the Brazilian Gymnastics Federation will have to be improved. They both promise to improve administrative routines. Marco Martins is considering separating the Federation management from the national training center (both are currently located in the city of Curitiba); Luciene Maria Resende wishes to analyze the question of the Federation's close proximity to the national training center at a later date.

Both candidates praise the current director, Vicélia Florenzano, for the development of gymnastics in Brazil. It seems they're not blaming her for the recent scandal.

With regard to the evolution of Brazilian gymnastics, both candidates defend the creation of programs to train Brazilian coaches, as well as programs to stimulate basic coaching skills. However, they emphasize that serious investments in the teams will continue to be made in order to guarantee a better performance at the London Olympics.

The national training center in Curitiba (photo: Reuters)

The candidates do have divergent opinions on a few matters. For instance, Marco Martins intends to keep a national team, but wishes to put an end to permanent centralized training. According to Martins, national team members should train at their respective clubs and only get together before competitions; in his opinion, the duration of such joint training camps should be determined by the importance of the competition. He wishes to keep a national training center, but would like to have it established in a bigger city, the better to meet the requirements of the Federation. Furthermore, Martins hopes the Federation will establish a better relationship with the clubs, including the loan of equipment and top coaches.

For her part, Maria Luciene Resende intends to discuss the subject of the national team with her work team and the various state federations. Like Martins, she guarantees greater support to the clubs, but she hasn't actually made any concrete proposals. She intends to analyze the viability of other centers outside Curitiba (the current seat of the national training center) in the future.

Globoesporte expects Maria Luciene Resende to win the election. We'll see how it goes, and whether there will soon be an improvement in the Federation's troubled relationship with its top gymnasts.

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