Brazilian journalists normally have to speak English or utilise one of the volunteer translators who help out in the mixed zones when they want to interview foreign athletes at the Olympic Games. But they were in for a surprise when they spoke to British canoe slalom competitor David Florence in Deodoro on Sunday (7 August).
Not only has Florence fallen in love with Rio, as most ‘gringos’ do, he has become fluent in Portuguese as he prepared for the Olympic Games, in which he is one of the medal contenders in the C1 category at theWhitewater Stadium.
The Scot learned the lingo through online lessons at home, and got to practise on the locals during five previous visits to Rio, including for the Rio 2016 test event. For Florence, being able to speak the language makes the experience of travelling and competing abroad much richer.
“It becomes a much better experience when you arrive in another country and you can talk to anyone,” he said, in near-perfect Portuguese. “Rio is a beautiful city and it helps that the people here are so friendly. I have studied the language and I want to get better.”
Florence has of course already visited Rio’s main tourist sites, such as Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain, loves to eat feijoada (the popular Brazilian pork and black bean stew), swim in the sea and enjoy the city’s many walking trails.
“Pedra da Gávea is an amazing place. I also went up Pedra do Telégrafo and took some amazing pictures. It’s an incredible city. Being able to swim in the sea on a hot day is a privilege,” Florence said,
Florence qualified for the C1 (singles) semi-finals that will be staged on Tuesday (8 August) afternoon. Before that he will return to Deodoro on Monday for the C2 (doubles) heats, in which he competes with his friend Richard Hounslow, with whom he took silver at London 2012.