Who would have guessed that some of Rio’s poorest young residents would find themselves part of an impressive surge in badminton?
The Chacrinha favela on the western outskirts of Rio is home to a hand-built indoor badminton arena that is being hailed as one of the reasons for the huge uptake in the sport. Up to 200 local boys and girls now come to play every day – a miraculous feat for a sport that few Brazilians had even heard of until recently. One of Chacrinha’s young residents is ranked 62 in the world and was one of the first ever Brazilians to represent his country in the sport at Rio.
A parallel story can be seen in another of Rio’s poorest and least developed suburbs, Japeri, about 70 minutes from the center of the city, which opened Rio’s first public golf course in 2005. Around 120 kids, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, are now enrolled in a golf academy at the course, which aims not only to teach them the sport, but to keep them in school, too.
The programme is succeeding on both fronts, with one of its female graduates, Thuane de Oliveira, already having climbed to fifth in the national rankings. Japeri Golf aims to crush traditional stereotypes about golf being an elite sport in South America, and perhaps produce a national champion in years to come.