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Mexico may send 100-strong delegation to 2016 Olympics

By Edna Alcantara

MEXICO CITY, April 27 (Xinhua) -- Mexico may send a 100-strong sports delegation to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

With Wednesday marking the 100-day countdown to the summer games starting Aug. 5, Xinhua spoke with the president of Mexico's Olympic Committee (COM), Carlos Padilla, to see how its delegation is shaping up and what it hopes to accomplish.

So far, 87 Mexican athletes, including 53 men and 34 women, have qualified to compete at the world's largest sporting event, but that list may grow if the country's volleyball team qualifies for the games.

"The training of our athletes is on track and has shown important results recently," said Padilla, noting several competitors even scored as much as 20 percent above international standards during the qualification trials.

The COM "set 15 to 20 percent above" international scores as a requirement to qualify "and it has been happening," said Padilla.

"Sometimes, they surpassed by a lot," said Padilla, adding "that makes me optimistic."

Mexico has traditionally done well in diving, karate and archery, but has been making inroads in other sports, said the COM chief.

In track and field, he said, Mexico "has a very good hand in various events, such as middle distance races and race walking."

Mexico is also hoping to advance in pistol and rifle shooting, events in which two women athletes will be competing, as well as the triathlon, in which Crisanto Grajales will be representing the country.

Grajales, 28, won the 2015 Pan American Games triathlon to qualify for the Rio games.

But Padilla declined to say whether Mexico has its eye on any medals.

"At this time, it would be somewhat irresponsible and risky" to talk about medals, said Padilla.

"Medals are not won the day of the competition. You have to have prior training, which in many cases takes 10 or 12 years," said Padilla, adding medal winners "have been preparing a long time to get them."

Following a dispute last year between Mexico's state-funded sports promotion agency Conade and some 10 national Olympic sports federations, including boxing, weightlifting and basketball, the federal government pulled its financial backing of the Olympic Games.

Conade, which had come under a new director, said financial audits of the federations showed they had misappropriated their funding, and ordered their suspension.

However, Padilla said the COM did some fundraising through sponsors and donations so the situation "will not affect" the athletes.

"We had to design a new strategy without government backing, which gives us the freedom to make our own decisions and I believe it has been an important step," he said.

The COM also approached its counterparts around the continent, "which allowed us to use the kind of proper facilities we no longer have access to and they provide us with the best teachers or trainers," said Padilla.

Through a reciprocal exchange agreement with Colombia, for example, athletes in different disciplines, such as cycling and archery, can train in the other country.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) also lent a hand, both financially and with trainers, according to Padilla.

The national delegation "is already ready," he said, though the matter of uniforms has yet to be resolved.

"Regarding everything else, we are good, so the athletes can focus on preparing for the competition," Padilla said, optimistically.

The COM and Brazil's embassy in Mexico on Wednesday launched a series of events to mark the countdown to the Olympics.

In 1968, Mexico became the first Latin American nation to host the Olympic Games, and in the evening, Mexico City's Olympic stadium was to be lit up with the colors of its national flag and that of Brazil, the second Latin American country to host the event.

An outdoor photographic exhibit of past Olympic highlights is also to go on show soon along Mexico City's main boulevard, Reforma.

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