San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rican Olympians sworn in

The eight athletes that will compete for Costa Rica in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which will be held Aug. 8-24, were sworn in at a ceremony at the offices of the Olympic committee yesterday.

“There is a lot of emotion,” said 50-meter freestyle swimmer Marianela Quesada. “It is incredible. It is an athlete´s greatest dream.”

The athletes are swimmers Quesada and Mario Montoya, runners Gabriela Traña, Nery Brenes and Allan Segura, mountain biker Federico Ramirez, road cyclist Henry Raabe and martial artist Kristopher Moitland.

“I am proud to represent Costa Rica,” Moitland said. “Every athlete wants the honor of representing their country.”

Montoya is participating in the 200-meter freestyle. Traña will be running the marathon, Brenes the 400-meter dash and Segura the 20-kilometer racewalk.

Moitland, the veteran of the team after competing in Athens in 2004, will be fighting in the heavyweight (more than 80 kilograms) category for taekwondo.

“I have a different mentality than last time,” said Moitland, who didn´t make it past the quarterfinals in 2004. “This time, I know what it takes to compete in the Olympics. You have to have a different strategy for each match.”

Even though the others are Olympic rookies, they aren´t strangers to national competitions.

“I´ve been competing on the national team for seven years,” Quesada said. “But this is my first time reaching this level. It is different.”

President Oscar Arias was expected to be present for the ceremony.

Some of the athletes looked jittery at the event. But Moitland held court, barrel-chested with shoulders relaxed, he walked around cracking jokes with various members of the media.

The ceilings of the conference room were lined with Chinese lanterns, and a ceremonial dragon dangled over the podium where the athletes sat.

Now that the pomp is over, the athletes enter their final days of focused training for the event they´ve spent their lives trying to reach.

“Saturday I go to Japan to finish my training,” Quesada said. “Then I go to China on Aug. 6.”

But the travel itself cannot be ignored. The athletes are excited to experience Beijing.

“I was in Beijing last year for the international championships,” Moitland said. “I didn´t get to see that much. I look forward to seeing the Forbidden City again as well as the new Olympic Stadium. The Chinese have the reputation of throwing a good ceremony.”

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