Subject: AFP: East Timor limbers up for Athens debut

East Timor limbers up for Athens debut

May 31, 2004

DILI: On a rough pasture tended by scrawny goats, Aguida Amaral pounds the dirt track she hopes will lead her from East Timor to Athens as the first ever Olympic contestant to compete for her Southeast Asian homeland.

Wearing cheap red sneakers and a vest bearing the one-word plea, "sponsor", she finishes off her gruelling twice-daily 15 kilometre run with a tortuous series of stretches before heading home to look after her four children. It is a long way to Athens from this impoverished field of dreams near Dili, but compared with the gold-driven operations of rival nations, East Timor's makeshift athletics camp sweats raw Olympic spirit.

"The target of getting a medal is still far away, but each time we will compete, we will get better, and for us taking part is what it is all about," said assistant coach Antonio Soares, checking Amaral's times on his stopwatch. Soares will help decide if Amaral, among the former Portuguese colony's top four long-distance runners, will take one of two marathon places which will be the country's only shots at Olympic glory when it debuts in August.

Although Amaral, 32, competed at the Sydney Games in 2000, placing 43rd, she did so under the flag of the United Nations, which took control of East Timor after a bloody 1999 referendum prompted separation from Indonesia. The raising of East Timor's colours at Athens will mark one of the proudest moments yet for the desperately poor nation, still struggling to find its feet after taking full independence in May 2002. afp

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Tiny East Timor preparing for Olympic debut

June 3, 2004 12:41am

Associated Press WorldStream

DILI, East Timor_East Timorese marathon runner Aguida Amaral spends her days pounding the dusty streets of the world's newest nation, training hard for the Athens Olympics, where the tiny country's flag will fly for the first time.

"The people of East Timor are behind me with their prayers," the 32-year-old said after a recent training session. "I believe I am not alone now."

Amaral is one of two East Timorese marathon runners preparing to leave for Athens. They may be joined by a weightlifter and a boxer, who are waiting to see if their wild card applications are approved, sports officials here say.

Amaral and three of her countrymen competed in the 2000 Sydney games. East Timor then was still under U.N. administration after Indonesian troops and militiamen went on a deadly rampage following its vote in 1999 for independence from 24 years of Jakarta rule.

At Sydney the East Timorese contingent competed in white uniforms under the Olympic flag.

Amaral came in 43rd with a time of 3 hours and 10 minutes _ a performance that drew thunderous applause from spectators and admiration from around the world.

The former Portuguese colony gained full independence two years ago, but the island nation remains desperately poor and burned buildings dot the capital, Dili, and other towns. State funding for sports is limited.

While none of this year's entrants are likely to be among the medalists, competing has a special meaning this time around, says Mateus da Crus de Carvalho, head of the East Timor contingent.

"This is the first time we will compete under our flag," he said. "It is a moment of huge pride for the people of East Timor."

Amaral, who is married with four children, competed for Indonesia at regional sports meets like the Asian Games when East Timor was still under Jakarta's control.

She and fellow 2004 Olympic hopeful, male athlete Xavier do Rego, begin training shortly after dawn each morning to avoid the fierce equatorial heat.

Sometimes dodging goats and horses, the pair jog on the massive Taci-Tolu sports field west of Dili, where the country proclaimed its independence in 2002 at a party attended by world leaders.

They run between 15 kilometers (9 miles) and 25 kilometers (15 miles) a day.

"I am happy right now because the people of East Timor have trusted me to represent this country in the biggest sport event in the world," Amaral said. "I will try my best to represent this country as I did during the Indonesian occupation."

Tiny East Timor preparing for Olympic debut June 3, 2004 12:41am Associated Press WorldStream DILI, East Timor_East Timorese marathon runner Aguida Amaral spends her days pounding the dusty streets of the world's newest nation, training hard for the Athens Olympics, where the tiny country's flag will fly for the first time. "The people of East Timor are behind me with their prayers," the 32-year-old said after a recent training session. "I believe I am not alone now." Amaral is one of two East Timorese marathon runners preparing to leave for Athens. They may be joined by a weightlifter and a boxer, who are waiting to see if their wild card applications are approved, sports officials here say. Amaral and three of her countrymen competed in the 2000 Sydney games. East Timor then was still under U.N. administration after Indonesian troops and militiamen went on a deadly rampage following its vote in 1999 for independence from 24 years of Jakarta rule. At Sydney the East Timorese contingent competed in white uniforms under the Olympic flag. Amaral came in 43rd with a time of 3 hours and 10 minutes _ a performance that drew thunderous applause from spectators and admiration from around the world. The former Portuguese colony gained full independence two years ago, but the island nation remains desperately poor and burned buildings dot the capital, Dili, and other towns. State funding for sports is limited. While none of this year's entrants are likely to be among the medalists, competing has a special meaning this time around, says Mateus da Crus de Carvalho, head of the East Timor contingent. "This is the first time we will compete under our flag," he said. "It is a moment of huge pride for the people of East Timor." Amaral, who is married with four children, competed for Indonesia at regional sports meets like the Asian Games when East Timor was still under Jakarta's control. She and fellow 2004 Olympic hopeful, male athlete Xavier do Rego, begin training shortly after dawn each morning to avoid the fierce equatorial heat. Sometimes dodging goats and horses, the pair jog on the massive Taci-Tolu sports field west of Dili, where the country proclaimed its independence in 2002 at a party attended by world leaders. They run between 15 kilometers (9 miles) and 25 kilometers (15 miles) a day. "I am happy right now because the people of East Timor have trusted me to represent this country in the biggest sport event in the world," Amaral said. "I will try my best to represent this country as I did during the Indonesian occupation." Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press. Al


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