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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina and BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil – More than 400 athletes representing 13 countries are expected to compete in the 47th South American Championships of Track and Field from June 2 to 5 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The sport’s biggest names have gathered in the Argentine capital, specifically on the synthetic track at Cenard – a 115,000-square meter (1.238 million square feet) building across from the River Plate stadium. The athletes will compete in 44 events.
“Everything is set for one of the most attractive competitions in world sports,” says Juan Alberto Scarpín, president of the Argentine Track and Field Athletics Federation. “The facilities have been adapted in order to meet the standards of an event of this magnitude.”
Scarpín adds: “The best athletes will be there, including two South American Olympic medal winners, the only two who took home gold from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.”
He’s referring to Panama’s Irving Saladino and Brazil’s Maurren Maggi, who both won gold in the long jump at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Saladino, a native of the city of Colón, holds a string of records that put him among the top 10 long jumpers in the sport’s history.
But he will not be the only star from the Panamanian delegation. Sprinter Alonso Edward also is competing in Buenos Aires. Edward took silver in 200-meter dash at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, finishing behind Jamaica’s Usain Bolt.
Saladino, Maggi and Edward’s participation is one of the event’s biggest attractions.
“Their presence will definitely be a milestone in the history of regional track and field, and it is going to make the 2011 South American Championships an unforgettable event,” Scarpín says.
Brazil aims to shine
Brazil is counting on a team filled with stars to help it maintain its dominance at the championships.
Brazil will send a team of 76 athletes – 38 men and 38 women – to Argentina. In addition to international long jump star Maurren Maggi, the Brazilian delegation features Fabiana Murer – the world’s top-ranked pole vaulter – and Marílson dos Santos, a two-time winner of the New York City Marathon.
Fourteen soldiers also are expected to compete for Brazil.
For the Brazilian Army’s athletes, the South American Championships are yet another opportunity to prepare for the World Military Games, which will be held on June 16-24 in Rio de Janeiro.
The top military athlete is Keila Costa, who is expected to contend for a medal in the triple jump.
“I’m not going to take it easy at the South American Championships,” Costa says. “I know I’ll be fighting to win medals, like I always do, but my goal is also to prepare for the more difficult competitions down the road.”
Brazil also will have competitors from the military in the sprint events, including the men’s and women’s 100- and 200-meter dashes and the 1,500-meter and 3,000-meter hurdles, as well as in the pole vault, long jump and heptathlon.
The Brazilian Navy’s Ana Claudia Lemos Silva, 22, already is a champion in the South American under-23 category and holds the adult record for the 100-meter dash. She also will compete in the 200-meter dash and will run a leg for the 4x100-meter relay team.
For the upcoming World Military Games in Rio, Argentina has enrolled 117 men from the three branches of its armed forces. They will compete in the military pentathlon, modern pentathlon, fencing, parachuting, equestrianism, marksmanship, and triathlon, among other events.
Chile will only have long distance runner Sgt. Leslie Encina Quintana in the South American Championships in Buenos Aires. But 57 soldiers are training to represent the Andean nation in Rio.