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MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay – Sacrifice defines the relationship between Rodolfo Collazo and rowing.
The 29-year-old physical education teacher is about to compete in his third Olympics, in the lightweight double sculls category, with Emiliano Dumestres, 25.
Since rowing is an amateur sport in Uruguay – making it impossible for an athlete to earn a living off it – Collazo had to find time to train after the school day.
“Rowing takes a lot of initiative,” said Collazo, a resident of Colonia who will carry the Uruguayan flag at the Opening Ceremony on July 27. “Though we now have support from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Municipality of Colonia and the Uruguayan Olympic Committee, it only covers specific competitions. We don’t receive ongoing support or have a deal with a sports brand that would sponsor our training for the rest of the year.”
Collazo qualified for the London Games by winning the bronze medal at the Latin American Olympic Qualification Tournament this past March in Tigre, Argentina. Collazo also took home gold medals at the South American Games in Buenos Aires (2006) and Medellín (2010).
The men’s lightweight double sculls event involves a two-person racing scull, with each rower – who can weigh up to 70 kilograms (154 pounds) – using two oars.
Rowing is the sport that has earned Uruguay its highest number of Olympic medals – three bronze (1932, 1948 and 1952) and a silver (1948).
Since Dumestres lives 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Colonia, they had to travel to train together on the Arroyo de las Vacas in Carmelo, 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of Montevideo.
Collazo’s goal in London is to beat the teams competing at the same level as Uruguay, such as Argentina, Hong Kong, Egypt and Japan.
“Bringing home a medal would be great, but we have to be realistic – we’re a long way off,” he said. “We’ll be competing against ourselves and trying to place first in Group C (composed of the 13th to 18th place finishers) or even make it into Group B (composed of the sixth to 12th place finishers).”
Collazo will be competing in his third consecutive Olympics with different partners. He competed in Athens 2004 with Joe Rebolledo, finishing in 18th before placing 15th with Javier García four years later in Beijing.
Collazo’s experience led to him being named his country’s flag bearer, according to Uruguayan Olympic Committee (COU) President Julio César Maglione.
“[I accepted being the flag bearer] with a great deal of happiness and joy because it feels similar to qualifying for the Olympic Games,” he said. “I made a lot of sacrifices and gave up a lot in order to achieve my goals in sports. Receiving an honor like this is a cause for celebration, because it’s a way to reward the efforts we make every day. To be the flag bearer for a nation is not something many people get to experience and the fact that I was granted this responsibility makes me extremely happy.”