It's official: Brazilian sports club Flamengo has axed its elite gymnastics program. According to Globoesporte, Flamengo President Marcio Braga announced on Wednesday that the club, most famous for its highly successful soccer program, will eliminate several of its elite sports programs, keeping only its rowing and basketball programs (and soccer, we presume). The Vice-President of the club, Delair Dumbrosck, has confirmed that the contracts of the club's three most famous gymnasts - Diego Hypolito, Daniele Hypolito and Jade Barbosa - will not be renewed, leaving the trio without a club to train at and largely without an income. Needless to say, the gymnastics-mad Brazilian media are all over the story.
Diego and Daniele Hypolito (photo: Jasmin Schneebeli-Wochner/Gymbox)
Globoesporte reports that Diego Hypolito wants to meet with Flamengo President Marcio Braga to discuss the matter. He is dismayed at having to hear about the club's plans from the media, and has asked for a personal meeting with Flamengo's President. "I want to meet Marcio Braga. In all my years at the club, I've only spoken to him a few times. It's bad to have to hear things from the media."
Hypolito has even thought of a way to help the club raise funds for its gymnastics program. "There are many ways in which Flamengo could market the Diego Hypolito brand name. If they want to make a club doll to sell, that's fine with me. If that's what it takes to keep my sport afloat, I'm obviously willing to help," Hypolito was quoted as saying.
We're not sure whether he is referring to an action figure or a doll, but we assume it's the latter - probably something like this Flamengo merchandise doll, only with his name on it.
The floor specialist also told Globoesporte: "I'm a double world champion and I know I shouldn't have to be worried about such contract matters. I'm doing my bit, but I'm dependent on sponsors. OK, I did not become Olympic champion, but that's not the end of the world, is it? I know that Flamengo's financial situation hasn't been good for years, but I should do better in 2009."
For her part, Diego's sister Daniele laments the fact that the club's officials aren't communicating with the gymnasts. According to Globoesporte, Daniele has yet to hear an official confirmation of her status from the club, having been informed of the non-renewal of her contract by the media rather than by club officials.
"Flamengo will last for years, but officials go by," Daniele was quoted as saying. "I think they should participate more in the active lives of the athletes. You can't make budget cuts without talking to people. They should speak to the athletes before doing these things," Daniele told Globoesporte.
Daniele also feels the club should be more grateful to the gymnasts who have won it acclaim over the last decade, such as Diego, Jade and herself. "I'm grateful to everyone at Flamengo, but I can't work for love alone."
Thankfully, Daniele is not entirely dependent on the club for her income. She also has a personal sponsor who pays her as much as Flamengo does.
Jade Barbosa (left) with the emblem of her club, Flamengo (photo: Globoesporte)
Meanwhile, Jade Barbosa's father, César Barbosa, says that the non-renewal of his daughter's contract indicates "a lack of respect for the athletes" on the part of the Brazilian Olympic Committee.
According to Globoesporte, Mr. Barbosa was quick to remind reporters that the Brazilian Olympic Committee receives 2 percent of the revenues of the federal lotteries. He feels that some of that money should be made available to major multi-sport clubs like Flamengo, which currently receive no support from the Olympic Committee, although they produce a large percentage of Brazil's athletes.
"The Brazilian Olympic Committee is showing a lack of respect for our athletes," said Mr. Barbosa. "Artistic gymnastics has grown over the last few years and the Olympic Committee needs to adopt a more affectionate attitude toward it. It is not right that we, with three world-level gymnasts like Diego, Jade and Daniele, should find ourselves in this position. All the other gymnasts in the world are already training for the London Olympics, but without any incentive to train, [our athletes] will of necessity lag behind," said Mr. Barbosa
He hopes the club will find a way to keep the gymnasts. "Even with its problems, Flamengo is still the ideal club for the gymnasts. It has room, equipment and coaches to provide for the athletes' needs."