HAVANA._ The simple fact that Brazil is attending the Toronto Pan American Games with its second largest ever delegation demonstrates that the South American nation is clearly intent on showing its sporting muscle just one year away from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The South American giant’s 600-strong team comprises Olympic medalists, world champions, and young athletes who are aiming to improve their results at Guadalajara-2011 where they took 48 gold, 35 silver, and 58 bronze medals, for an overall tally of 141.

The President of the Brazilian Olympic Committee (BOC), Carlos Nuzman, said that these Games are certainly an additional motivation for next year’s Olympic Games, recognizing the immense challenge that leaving Brazil with such a large delegation poses.

According to the BOC, among the Olympic medalists who is competing in Toronto are swimmer Thiago Pereira, holder of seven titles and three standing Pan American records, judokas Mayra Aguiar, Felipe Kitadai, Rafael Silva, Tiago Camilo, and the sailor Robert Scheidt, among others.

The largest ever Brazilian team to participate in the Games was of 660 competitors, when they represented the host nation in Rio-2007. That delegation achieved their best results ever, taking a total of 157 medals, of which 52 were gold, 40 were silver, and 65 were bronze.

This was the second time Brazil hosted the Pan American Games, the first time being in 1963 in the densely populated city of Sao Paulo where they took 14 titles, 20 second places and 18 third for a total of 52.

It is also noteworthy that, during that time, the Brazilian soccer team dethroned their Argentinean counterparts and winners of the three previous titles.

THE HAND OF HISTORY

There are many Brazilian sports personalities who have added greatly to the 16 editions of the quadrennial Americas event held thus far.

In athletics, for example, the performances of jumper Joao De Oliveira, winner of four triple and long jump golds in Mexico-1975 and San Juan 1979, are unforgettable.

In Mexico, De Oliveira became the second Brazilian triple jumper to set a world record at a Pan American Games with a 17.89m reach.

Twenty years earlier and also in the land of the Aztecs, Adhemar Ferreira da Silva surpassed the mark set by Soviet Leonid Sherbakov with a jump of 16.23m to take the second of three golds won at these competitions.

It would be impossible not to mention the extraordinary jumper Maureen Higa Maggy, long jump champion in Winnipeg-1999, Rio-2007 and Guadalajara-2011.

However, in individual events, none have lived up to the aspiration for gold as swimming has, which has delivered more than 40 men’s titles and been home to world class figures such as Thiago Pereira, Gustavo Borges and César Cielo.

The latter, first Brazilian swimming champion and Pan American record holder in the 50 and 100m freestyle with 21.58 and 47.84 seconds respectively, declined to travel to Toronto to focus on his endeavors to take a fourth consecutive 50m title at the Kazan World Championships next August.

Brazil boasts 24 gold medals in judo, including six won at the Guadalajara games, where Thiago Camilo retained his continental title in the middle weight division.

Tennis is another sport that has brought Brazil 14 glorious golds, while table tennis, in the games since 1983, has seen the South American giant’s male paddlers win the team competition six times.

The Brazilian men’s basketball teams have won five titles (1971, 1987, 1999, 2003 and 2007) while the ladies took the gold medal in three (1967, 1971 and 1999.)

While Brazil has dominated women’s handball since 1999, soccer performances have been somewhat lackluster with just 4 men’s titles – the last won in 1987 – and two won by its female teams, in 2003 and 2007.

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