Olympic scouts comb the Amazon for native archers to compete at 2016 Games

Tribespeople given intensive training at Olympic village to become athletes

Rio de Janeiro

Brazil’s Olympic scouts are hoping to discover a potential archery gold medallist from Amazonian tribes at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Marcia Lot, an archery scout from the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS) has been hunting through eight indigenous communities in the rainforest since February this year, looking for talented youngsters between the ages of 14 to 19 who display “tradition wisdom” with a bow-and-arrow. Working with the Amazonian Federation of Archery (FATARCO) she initially chose 80 archers from a wide number of ethnic groups including the Kambeba and Aldeia Kuana tribes.

Selectors will choose their final top three to go forward to the Olympics by the end of this month. The trainees will then be entered into Brazil’s National Championship Games in November.

The FAS concentrated its efforts on finding teenagers, born in the heart of the Amazon, with not just target-hitting skills but with the discipline needed to become a professional.

“They can hunt and hit a macaw flying 100m up in the air and spear a fish. The challenge for us now is to mix this traditional wisdom with the cutting edge technology of the Olympic sports,” said Virgilio Viana, Chief Executive of the FAS. “We are selecting young people with discipline, character, stable family backgrounds and emotional structure,” said Roberval Fernando dos Santos, FATARCO’s Brazilian archery coach.

The young athletes have now left their homes and are living in the Olympic Village in Manaus, the Amazon capital, undergoing intensive technique training with dos Santos. “Professional archery is very different from what they are accustomed to practising on a daily basis,” said dos Santos. “They have had to learn posture, coordination, alignment and anchoring. Because of their inherent abilities they have accelerated through the training and we are seeing their talents emerge.”

Jardel Cruz, 16, whose first toy was a bow and arrow, is one of the Olympic hopefuls from the Kambeba tribe in the Cuieras region near the Rio Negro.  “I hope I’m one of the three selected,” said Jardel. “I would love to bring a medal home. Not just for me but for my whole community.”

For indigenous families, the training project is seen as an important step. 

“Formerly, the indigenous peoples were forgotten. Not today – we are being looked at more closely and valued for what we have to offer,” said Jardel’s father.

Olympic selectors say their next step in 2014 is to find canoeing and kayaking champions among the tribes.

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