Venezuela won its first medal at the Tokyo Olympics with weightlifter Julio Mayora lifting 326kg last Wednesday (28). “This is a gift for President Hugo Chávez,” said the 25-year-old, recalling the 67th birthday of the former Venezuelan head of state. This is the 18th Olympic award in the country’s history.
Mayora lives in the Santa Eduviges favela, in the Catia La Mar neighborhood, in the state of La Guaira, on the Venezuelan coast. His community followed through a screen installed in a public square and vibrated along with the Venezuelan during the race.
The Olympic medalist started training at the age of ten and recognizes that he received all the support of the Venezuelan State, through the Ministry of Sports, to pursue a career as an athlete. In 2019 he was Pan American champion and in 2018 he won bronze in the world championship.
His tribute to Chavez, recorded during a phone call with President Nicolas Maduro, was criticized by opponents. There were even those who suggested that the video had been manipulated and that Julio was forced to give the statements.
In an interview with local radio stations this Thursday, Julio Mayora denied the accusations and said that his tribute was genuine, because “he knows what Chávez has done for the sport”. He also stressed that this was a victory for all Venezuelans.
¡Julio! We are proud of you, it is a great joy that has given us all Venezuelans and Venezuelans, you raised the triumph with your strength of war in them #JuegosOlimpicos #Tokyo2020. The victories of our athletes are the ones from all over the country. Congratulations! pic.twitter.com/qpy6SBZeR7
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) July 28, 2021
On the other hand, also in this edition of the Olympic Games, Venezuelan boxer Eldric Sella competed in the competition for the Olympic Refugee Team (EOR), registered by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). After being defeated by Dominican Euri Cedeño Martínez, in the preliminary round, Sella was banned from entering Trinidad and Tobago, where he had resided since 2018.
The justification is that his passport is expired and the Venezuelan would not have any valid visa. UNHCR said in a statement that it is seeking a country to “welcome the athlete”.
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The Venezuelan chancellor assured that Sella can return to the country, as he is not a political exile. “This is what happens when UNHCR acts with political interests. Eldric Sella is not a refugee, no one chases him. He can return home whenever he wants. He emigrated to Trinidad and Tobago and cannot receive a status when he does not apply. UNHCR used him ideologically. against Venezuela,” wrote Minister Jorge Arreaza.
Like the silver medalist, 24-year-old Eldric Sella, also of humble origins, grew up in the Jan 23 favela in Caracas. At 18, he joined the Venezuelan boxing team, at 19, in 2018, he left the country. In December 2020, he obtained a UN scholarship to train boxing in Couva, 35km from the capital of Trinidad and Tobago.
Edition: Rebeca Cavalcante