As all of the competitors and event staff march their way towards the town square, the national pride emanating from each of the 14 countries represented is virtually tangible.
The teams are decked out in full uniform, waving their flags and the anticipation of the upcoming event is growing more intense with each progressive step.
Outside the Municipal Theatre in the town square, a large crowd has gathered to applaud the entrance of each national team as they arrive. The home team of Chile enters last and receives the biggest response from the crowd. In return, Chile is the most raucous of the countries present.
The opening ceremonies continue with the Sands of the World, in which each country pours sand from the home country into a container as a symbol of the unity and sportsmanship of this event. Speeches are made by event staff and local official including the Mayor of Iquique. With all of that done, the 2015 World Bodyboard Championship is officially underway.
Afterwards, event staff and a few teams headed to Antojo’s, the sponsor restaurant for the WBC here in Iquique for two years straight. This is where I caught up with Team Chile.
Outside on the patio, under the sunny blue skies of a Chilean summer afternoon, I sat down for a conversation with team Captain Renato Arellano while he and his teammates await their lunch. He spoke in detail about the swelling of national support after Chile won the team championship here in Iquique last year. When asked about the importance of defending their title and trying to win again, Arellano had this to say:
“It’s so important. We know that. We have a good team with a lot of experience from the world tour, and we’re confident.”
From there we discussed the importance of having Alan Muñoz on the team. Making his return to international competition after suffering multiple serious injuries earlier in the year and spending most of 2015 recovering, Munoz is eager to have an immediate impact on the team. Arellano spoke about Alan’s positive energy and desire to take the Men’s Gold Medal as well as to help the team with a good performance.
Our conversation shifted toward the younger members of the team. Team Chile has opted to allow Yoshua Toledo to compete in the under 18 Boys in his last year of eligibility for the division. This gives him the opportunity to defend his gold medal performance from last year.
As a result, 16-year-old supergrom Nelson Flores will be competing in the Open Men’s division. When I asked, Renato about this, he said, ‘Nelson did very well in Puerto Rico on the world tour. This gives us all confidence.”
Just before lunch is served, I asked Arellano how does the team feel about its chances of winning the championship again this year? The team captain looked straight at me and flashed a confident smile. “The team feels good.”
Competition begins tomorrow morning at 8am local time (9pm AEST), at Punta 1. Be sure to stay tuned to www.isaworlds.com for live webcast coverage of the event. The webcast will be available in both English and Spanish.