Once again, Dolores Moreira is the first Uruguayan athlete to qualify for the Olympics, having booked her place at Tokyo 2020 last year.
As with the movement of the waves she is accustomed to, the career of Dolores Moreira has had its ups and downs. But above all, it has gone fast. Really fast.
Moreira is only 21-years-old but has already qualified for her second Olympic Games, having previously competed and been her country’s flag bearer at Rio 2016.
Having been the first Uruguayan to qualify for Rio 2016, Moreira achieved the feat a second time by qualifying for Tokyo 2020 in 2019.
Back in 2016, she hadn’t expected to qualify for the Olympics, because at the time she was so young. In 2020, she had questioned whether she would be able to participate after suffering an injury.
"Obviously, every time I’m able to qualify for the Olympics it brings me tremendous joy. I planned to qualify for 2020, but not for 2016. This time, for Tokyo, I competed in a qualifying event in Japan, but I hadn't been able to sail for several months because of an injury. I had about a month of training before the competition, and being able to qualify was very beautiful," she told Tokyo2020.org.
Her next big goal will be next summer. "I would like to improve on my performance at Rio 2016. I had high expectations for Rio, but I was too nervous. Now I hope to do everything more calmly, improve my result and, God willing, I can dream about a medal race."
2016 Getty Images
A 17-year-old flag bearer
Despite her nervousness, Moreira enjoyed Rio 2016 from a privileged position: as a flag bearer in the Opening Ceremony.
"Being a flag bearer was incredible. I, as with all sailors, am accustomed to competing without a crowd. So from that, I was in a stadium with the whole crowd cheering. It was incredible. I really enjoyed the moment and was very proud. I cried three times during the Opening Ceremony. It was like… three hours long? So I cried every hour,” she laughed.
But 2016 was also special for her because, more than ever, she felt like she had company when she competed there.
"It was amazing for me, because normally I race far away from Uruguay and my family can’t be there with me. But Brazil was quite nearby, so they jumped into their cars and went to Rio. It was beautiful to share the Olympics with my parents and all my family," she recalled.
A gift from her older sister
Moreira’s family gave her the impetus to take part in the sport of sailing, and although she is now riding the crest of a wave, her beginnings as a sailor were anything but easy. But she found the incentive she needed to develop as an athlete at home.
"My home in Paysandu is on the banks of the Uruguay river. When I was a child, I always saw boats outside my windows, so I was very curious about what it would feel like to sail. My sisters and I tried the sport and my older sister and I fell in love with it. It was incredible, because sailing has united us as a family," said Moreira.
In fact, her oldest sister gave her the perfect gift at the perfect time.
"There was a training camp where they were searching for new talent. It was for my age group, so I went along, but I needed to borrow a boat because I didn't have one. So they gave me a boat with holes in it. When I was getting close to land, the boat sank!".
"My oldest sister was practising laser radial at that time. When she saw what happened, she gave me her boat. She had to change her discipline [as a result]. I sailed with her boat for two years. It was a tremendous gesture because she gave me something she had put all her savings into. And she did that just to help me," Moreira recalled, still impressed to this day.
"My sisters are my super fans,” she said with a smile.
Sailing has united us as a family.
A simulator at home
The quarantine brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has seen athletes around the world trying to move forward with the wind against them.
But once again, Moreira’s family were there for her. Alongside her father, she built a simulator that replicated what it is like to sail.
"We built a rudimentary simulator, made of wood. I trained with that during the lockdown and thanks to that, I didn't lose my posture. When we realised that we would be at home for several months, we began thinking about the simulator. My father has a sawmill and he has always worked with wood, so he got everything that we needed and we built it in one day."
In that way, the time Moreira spent in quarantine wasn’t wasted.
It is the same with the other difficult moments in her career. The 21-year-old athlete who will take part in her second Olympics in Tokyo has never wasted time. Not when she was sailing in a borrowed sinking boat. And not in her most difficult moments.