Marcelo Chirico stunned the world when he won the gold medal in the individual show jumping event during the first edition of the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Today, at age 22, the jockey who was born in Rivera continues to make history in a sport where he has to be measure against rich competitors, facing skyrocketing costs in order to be able to compete.
In April this year, Chirico will take Uruguay’s name to a place where it has never been before: the World Cup.
What is this event? It is an annual tournament held since 1979 for which there are 20 spots reserved for European jockeys, 15 for Americans, 5 for Canadians and only 5 for jockeys from the rest of the world.
In order to qualify, Chirico took part in six competitions, two in Argentina and four in Brazil. “They were very challenging competitions since they involved the best jockeys from South America. Those six competitions are part of the South American League where the top two go to the World Cup. I came in third, but because one of them could not go, his spot was offered to me”, he explained to the Observador newspaper from Brazil, where he lives.
His return to South America
In 2012, Chirico moved to Belgium but in late 2013 he returned to Brazil. Why? Due to economic reasons.
“I had the opportunity to compete in several European countries with the best jockeys in the world and with great results. I returned since it was almost impossible to compete in the top world competitions, in which the enrollment fees are too high for someone who was doing everything thanks to the great efforts undertaken by their family. With no sponsor to finance my costs and no team that would allow me to mainly focus on competing, I decided to return”, he said.
“In Brazil the sport is also very expensive, but the most important competitions are much more affordable than the top competitions in Europe”, he explained.
Chirico is the athlete who receives the major grant from the Uruguayan Olympic Committee. “It obviously helps, but it is only enough to cover a small part of the costs. Equestrianism is very expensive, especially at the highest level. We lack broadcasting in order to facilitate the emergence of companies or brands that want to endorse jockeys as in Brazil where all the important competitions are broadcasted on television and the government supports its jockeys so that they can obtain good horses for the Olympic Games”, he said.
A dream come true
“I am proud to be the first Uruguayan to qualify for the World Cup. It is something I have always dreamed about and that seemed so distant, since I am from the interior of Uruguay, a country where the sport is amateurish and where it very difficult to grow”, he expressed.
“Being able to compete against the best in the world is a unique opportunity and I will make the most of it”, he assured.
Toronto 2015 and, hopefully, Rio 2016
Chirico claims that 2014 was a “great year” for him. In the Santiago Odesur Games he came in eighth and qualified to the Toronto Pan American games which will be in July this year. “I also won two races in San Pablo, I qualified for the World Cup and the World Equestrian Games, although I could not go due to administrative issues in Brazil”, he said.
“My main goal in Toronto is to qualify for the Rio Olympic games. It will be very difficult since the Pan American games will be more demanding than they were before, and there will be former Olympic and world champions”, he stated. But Las Vegas will be an important opportunity to grow.
Source: El Observador