It was with tears in her eyes that Ana Cabecinha arrived, in the early afternoon of this Wednesday, August 11, at the headquarters of the Clube Oriental de Pechão, a village in the municipality of Olhão, where a surprise reception was being prepared for the athlete. Kisses, hugs, bunches of flowers and even a cake were not lacking to thank the performance of the Algarvian marcher and her coach, in winning 20th place in the 20 km march at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Inside the headquarters of the Clube Oriental de Pechão, the final preparations were organized for the arrival of Ana Cabecinha, with the distribution of chairs in the room, the placement of appetizers for the guests and the disposition of photographs of the athlete throughout the space.
At the estimated time of arrival, people began to approach the door to stand in the front row, with bunches of flowers to offer.
The marcher, from the Algarve by adoption, and her coach Paulo Murta arrived in a van from the club, while the name of Ana Cabecinha was heard in the street, shouted by those who were waiting for her.
After a very difficult year for the athlete, during which, in January, she became infected with Covid-19, and, in April, she lost her father, emotion took over the marcher, who cried while receiving kisses and hugs from the family and from friends.
"Today, with everything I've been through, on a weekday, I wasn't expecting to see anyone waiting for me, not even a full room," confided Ana Cabecinha to Sul Informação.
There were dozens of people who, despite the pandemic, gathered to congratulate the athlete for winning the 20th place achieved in the 20-kilometer march, held in the city of Sapporo, Japan.
Ana Cabecinha was «with a full heart and very happy with the presence of all these people», on a hot afternoon in Pechão, at a reception that «without a doubt, has a very special meaning».
Participation in this edition of the Olympic Games «fell short of expectations» for the athlete, because, she assured, «that was not what I trained for and that, in December, I reached the minimum level to be in Tokyo», she stressed.
Still, "this 20th place is a great result, after such a complicated year I had and after so much I went through".
For Paulo Murta, the athlete's coach, this 20th place «only sins because Ana Cabecinha already had three Top 8 in the last editions of the Olympic Games», but «it's not the place that matters, but the way in which it was achieved and worked». And, in this regard, he guarantees: «I'm quite proud of what we've done».
Still, the coach regretted that the recognition of Olympic athletes is temporary.
“People only remember the Olympic Games at this time of greatest experience in the competition. Four athletes won medals, but the other 88 who were there [in Tokyo] also need to work daily, they need to keep the Olympic flame alive». However, conditions for this are often lacking.
This is also the case for Ana Cabecinha. Despite «being very proud of the place where we train, we already needed a little more», he lamented, recalling that, in 2008, a promise was made to improve the conditions of the training space at Clube Oriental de Pechão…which still remains to be fulfilled. .
As for the future, 37-year-old Ana Cabecinha does not set big goals for the time being. «For now, it's about working and putting all my ideas in place», to «know if, at the beginning of the season, I'll have all the strength to continue».
The presence in the 2024 Olympic Games, in Paris, is not yet certain, but the Algarvian walker guarantees that her career does not stop there: «I'll continue training and then we'll see if the body can resist another three years».
Photos: Rúben Bento | Sul Informação