One medal and 10 Olympic diplomas – awarded to top-eight finishers – were brought home to Portugal from the 2016 Olympic Games, which came to a close yesterday (August 21) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The overall performance of Portuguese athletes was the second best ever – only at the 2004 Athens Olympics did Portugal perform better – however, a number of athletes have been critical of the lack of support the Portuguese government has provided them.
Portugal’s Head of Mission for the Olympics, José Garcia, admitted that the country did not give its athletes “the best conditions” to bring home medals compared to other countries, but said Portugal’s performance was nonetheless one of the best ever at the Olympics.
Judoka Telma Monteiro was the only participant to bring home a medal – bronze for her third-place finish in the -57kg judo competition.
Nevertheless, there is good news for Portugal as the country saw 19 athletes and teams finishing in top-10 spots, and 10 finishing in the top-six.
Emanuel Silva and João Ribeiro came in fourth in the K2 1,000 metres canoeing final, while João Pereira was fifth in the triathlon event.
Fernando Pimenta also finished fifth in the K1 1,000 metres canoeing final, as well as table-tennis player Marcos Freitas and Portugal’s Olympic football team.
Finishing in sixth were Ana Cabecinha (race-walking), Patrícia Mamona and Nélson Évora (triple-jump), as well as the four-man canoeing team David Fernandes, Emanuel Silva, Fernando Pimenta and João Ribeiro which came in sixth in the K4 competition.
Finally, Portuguese cyclist Nélson Oliveira came in seventh in the men’s cycling time trial.
Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa has congratulated the country’s athletes on their performance at the Olympics, saying however that Telma Monteiro’s medal shouldn’t have been the only one.
Still, he says Portugal’s performance should not be measured by the amount of medals won.
“It was a whole country that was represented, not just one or two athletes,” he said in a message sent to Rosa Mota, vice-president of Portugal’s Olympic Committee.
Indeed, the scarcity of medals has been the subject of debate among national athletes, sports organisations and even government representatives.
Taekwondo fighter Rui Bragança spoke of a “lack of support” that affects many athletes, and said this may have been the last time he takes part in the Olympic games as he refuses to “borrow more money” from his parents.
Portugal’s Secretary of State for Sport João Paulo Rebelo also weighed in on the subject, saying “the support we provide is the support that a country of our size, with our resources, can provide,” adding that it was “unfair” to compare Portugal to other wealthier countries that have more leverage to invest in sports.
Rebelo added that everyone would like the financial aid for sports to be larger, but said that the state is already making a “big effort” to support national athletes.
Photo: Telma Monteiro won a bronze medal for her third-place finish in the -57kg judo competition