Six Costa Ricans are headed to the Beijing Summer Olympics, but other hopefuls could still qualify within the next month, according to the National Olympic Committee (CON).
The athletes represent a wide range of sports: Mario Montoya will participate in swimming’s 200-meter freestyle, Nery Brenes in the 400- meter dash, Allan Segura in the 20-kilometer race walk, Kristopher Moitland in Taekwondo’s heavy-weight category, Federico Ramírez in mountain biking and Henry Raabe in road cycling.
The National Olympic Committee estimated that 10 to 12 athletes would qualify for the Beijing Games, which run August 8-24.
Josabeth Azofeifa, chief spokeswoman for CON, said the Pan-American Sports Organization has offered 25 million colones (about $50,000) worth of scholarships to help cover the athletes’ costs.
The Costa Rican Institute of Sports and Recreation (ICODER) also awarded the athletes ¢7.5 million ($15,000) last Friday.
The money will not be used to pay for President Oscar Arias’ ticket to China. He said he will not be attending Beijing’s opening ceremonies.
As the athletes perfect their strokes and buff their running shoes, CON’s executive committee is trying to settle internal politics.
Jorge Nery stepped down as the CON president amid a strong disapproval rating from local sports federations and past allegations of fraud and document forgery.
Nery made his announcement at a gathering of the general assembly organized by the Pan-American Sports Organization (Odedpa) on Monday night.
The attorney left his 22-year post to avoid possible sanctions against the Costa Rican Olympic team and to spend more time with his family, Azofeifa said.
When a country is sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee, its athletes may not parade with their flag at the opening ceremonies.
After Nery’s withdrawal, CON members chose Roberto Verdesia, former president of the track and field federation, by a vote of 31-9 as interim president until September.
His only opponent was William Corrales, head of the volleyball federation. Normally, the new president assumes power within 60 days. But an agreement was reached in which Nery would hand the baton to Verdesia by June 13, Azofeifa said. The past year has been difficult for Nery.
Juan Carlos Bonilla, head of the institute’s press and public relations department, said the government was disappointed with CON, especially after the latest Pan-American Games to which Costa Rica failed to send a single athlete.
Last October, the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) began investigating Nery on allegations of fraud and forgery.
Azofeifa said all charges have been dropped against Nery, after the government ruled in favor of CON.
In March, representatives from 26 of the sports federations that make up CON’s assembly voted to sack the committee.
A later meeting on April 30 to elect the executive board ended in disaster as well when dissidents refused to let Nery proceed with agenda items.