Olympian Ana Marcela praises quality of Rio 2016 pool

After serving as the venue for synchronized swimming, water polo and diving competitions at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, the Maria Lenk Aquatic Park was once again a hub of elite aquatic action, as the facility welcomed the Maria Lenk Trophy swim meet.

The Rio 2016 legacy was in full evidence, with the renovated venue and interest in the sport winning plaudits from the athletes, who also put on a number of record breaking performances.

"The best pool we have today in Brazil is here at the Maria Lenk,” said Olympian Ana Marcela. “Because some Olympic Games events have been held here, I think this shows it is the best pool to host the National Championships. It is important to continue having these events, everyone loves to compete here.

The best pool we have today in Brazil is here at the Maria Lenk Ana Marcela

“Seeing someone train here and break a South American record shows that, not only the pool, but that the whole structure of the Time Brasil [Team Brazil] Training Center is successful. It's cool for us athletes to arrive in Rio de Janeiro and spend a week training here because we know everything is ready.”

In total, 12 records fell over the course of the competition, including four South American, five Brazilian and three meet records.

"This park is alive, full of activities, and we are turning it into a multi-sport center," said Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) General Manager of Finance Jorge Bichara of the Maria Lenk pool, where swimmers, divers, and synchronized swimmers regularly train.

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With free admission offered to the public, the Maria Lenk Trophy also included children's games and a variety of festivities at the five-day event.

“We have carried out a series of actions to promote competition, such as supporting the region's residents and the creation of plans to attract the public,” added Bichara.

The turnout of the public was a welcome boost to athletes, who were vying for spots on Brazil’s 2017 World Championship team.

"It's a lot of fun, the pre-race moment, the adrenaline rush - it is one of the parts that I like the most,” said Olympic gold medalist Cesar Cielo. “To see the stadium full, with good results all week, the kids coming to watch us – it shows that swimming is alive and we are doing our part to make sure that continues.”

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While Olympians once again filled the lanes, a new generation of budding talent also looked to make a splash, as the competition served as a qualifier for the 2017 FINA World Championships.

One such swimmer was Diogo Villarinho. Although traditionally a 10km Marathon Swimming specialist, the 23-year-old has redirected his efforts to the pool after having missed out on the Olympic Games Rio 2016 following treatment for thyroid cancer. Villarinho, who has stated his intention to qualify for Tokyo 2020, got one stroke closer to his Olympic goals with a third-place finish in the men’s 1500m freestyle in a time that was 13 seconds faster than his previous best.

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