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Brazil celebrates record medal tally ahead of Rio

Monday - 8/13/2012, 12:41am  ET

By TALES AZZONI
AP Sports Writer

LONDON (AP) - Brazil won a record number of medals at the London Games and is aiming for a top-10 finish at the 2016 Games in Rio, when athletes will be competing at home backed by unprecedented funding.

Team Brazil won 17 medals overall in London, two more than it did in 2008 in Beijing and 1996 in Atlanta. It finished with the same three gold medals as in Beijing, two short of its record from the 2004 Athens Games, when Brazil was 16th overall.

"We reached our goal," said Marcus Vinicius Freire, the Brazilian Olympic Committee's top sports director. "It's within the numbers that we had predicted."

Officials had expected Brazil to win at least 15 medals at the London Games.

Yane Marques won Brazil's final medal when she finished third in the modern pentathlon on Sunday.

Among the highlights of Brazil's participation in London were Sarah Menezes' victory in the 48-kilogram division for the country's first gold in women's judo; Arthur Zanetti's still rings title for the nation's first medal in gymnastics; and the women's volleyball team repeating as Olympic champions.

In addition to the three gold medals, Brazil won five silver and nine bronze.

The Brazilian committee said it has already identified some of the sports in which the country will need to improve in order to finish in the top 10 in Rio. The committee wants Brazilian athletes making more finals, particularly in swimming and athletics.

"The number of finals overall deserve our attention," Freire said. "We made 41 in Beijing and only 35 here."

Brazil didn't win a single medal in athletics this year, and only two in swimming _ a silver for Thiago Pereira and a bronze by Cesar Cielo.

Freire said taekwondo, equestrian and men's handball also deserve special attention in the next few years after the sports failed to meet expectations in London. The same is true for women's basketball, women's soccer and women's gymnastics, and he expects sailing to improve after Brazil got only a bronze this time.

Among Brazil's biggest disappointments in this Olympics was the silver won by the men's soccer team, which had most of the country's top players and was favored to win the title. The elimination of the women's team in the quarterfinals, after winning the silver in the last two Olympics, also ranked high.

There were high expectations for defending world champion pole vaulter Fabiana Murer, but she didn't even make it to the finals. Defending Olympic long jump champion Maurren Maggi also disappointed and missed the final at the London Games.

Brazil won four medals in volleyball, but it lost both men's finals, indoor and on the beach. Boxing was a pleasant surprise with three medals, but none of them gold.

The Brazilian committee had said ahead of the games that it gave its athletes the best preparation ever, including the use of the Crystal Palace sports center in London for its headquarters. More than $150 million was invested ahead of the London Games, and the number is expected to increase significantly for the games in Rio.

"To reach the top 10 in 2016, we will need to have athletes making the podium in at least 13 sports," Freire said. "We have been reaching the podium in eight or nine sports only. We will focus on the individual sports now, in addition to our tradition of doing well in the team sports."

The home Olympics helped Britain soar to its best performance in 104 years. The home county won 29 golds, third overall behind the U.S. and China, and 65 overall.

British Olympic leaders are hoping to build on the performance in 2016.

"You never say, 'OK, we did very well. Now let's fall back,'" British Olympic Association chairman Colin Moyinhan said. "We have phenomenal athletes in this country, unbelievable athletes, and we're building great support structures. And we must always push on and always raise the bar and always seek to do better."

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AP Sports Writer Rob Harris contributed to this report.

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Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni


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