Foot fault scupper's East Timor's Olympic dream
August 18, 2008 - 9:19AM
SHE came, she saw, and just after the halfway point in yesterday’s women’s marathon she conked out.
That was the unfortunate end to Mariana Dias Ximenes’s Olympic adventure. The 25-year-old was
one of 13 runners who failed to complete the gruelling course, which began at Tiananmen Square
and ended in front of a packed house at the National Stadium.
East Timor’s sole competitor at the Beijing Games, who uses a combination of prayer and the
songs of Alicia Keys to help pump her up for big events, succumbed to a bruised left foot and
reluctantly quit at the 26-kilometre mark.
The injury dashed her hopes of completing the 42-kilometre run and of emulating the heroic
efforts of fellow countrywoman Agueda Fatima Amaral at the 2000 Sydney Games. Running as an
Individual Olympic Athlete, Amaral triumphantly entered the Homebush arena third last in a fi eld
of 45. She knelt down and clasped her hands in prayer before being reminded that she had to complete a lap of the stadium.
It was an Olympic moment that Dias Ximenes witnessed first hand, sitting in the stadium with Jose Ramos Horta, the man who is now the country’s president.
“I was so proud of her and I wanted to be like her,” said Dias Ximenes. For East Timor’s athletes, however, just getting
to Beijing is a victory of sorts.
Her teammate and fellow marathoner Augusto Soares was prevented from making the journey after his
coach who was not included among the support staff selected to tag along had refused to let him attend.
Helder Encarnacao, a member of the delegation with the East Timor National Olympic Committee,
said Soares lived with his coach and was stopped from leaving when the delegation departed for Beijing earlier this month.
He said an attempt was made to bring Soares over after the team arrived.
“But we couldn’t get in touch with him,” said Encarnacao, adding that Soares had possibly returned to his home village after the coach’s unusual intervention.
Sunday’s marathon was only Dias Ximenes’s third. Her first was at the Asian Games in South Korea in 2002 and her second was this year in Malang, in Indonesia.
“I’ve been training for two hours every day, except Sunday when I go to church,” said Dias Ximenes. “I know that the people of East Timor support me and I hope I can do the best for my country.”
The diminutive Dias Ximenes said highlights of her time in Beijing have included mingling and swapping pins with the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, US basketballers and track-and-field stars at the Olympic athletes’ village.
After the Games, she intends to return to Bali, where she recently completed a university course in management.
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