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Pimentel handed Olympic wild card

Olympic dream: Pimentel has received a wild card to compete in the Lasers in Rio

Cameron Pimentel looks set to make his Olympic Games bow after receiving a wild card to compete in Rio.

The 25-year-old sailor was unable to qualify for the Laser class through the normal competitive channel but has been awarded a wild card from the International Olympic Committee.

Should he make the squad, to be announced by the Bermuda Olympic Association at Gosling’s Wine Cellar on June 23, Pimentel will join Cecilia Wollmann as the island’s two sailors travelling to Rio.

Wollmann, 18, secured her spot after finishing as the top North American sailor yet to qualify for the Olympics at the World Cup in Miami in January, finishing 40th overall in the Laser Radial class.

Pimentel, who placed 71st in the Lasers at the competition, said he was elated and relieved to have been handed a wild card after meeting the IOC’s requirements.

In an effort to ensure universal representation at the Games, the IOC allows national Olympic committees with few or no athletes to participate through offering wild cards.

“I’m really excited to know I’m going to compete in the Olympics,” Pimentel said.

“It’s been my dream since I was about 10 or 11, so it’s really special. It’s definitely great to have two Bermudian sailors in Rio.

“We’ve always had a ton of talent but have not had the resources to keep all of our great sailors in the game long enough to compete at the Olympic level.

“Olympic sailing is unbelievably professional these days, but with better support, hopefully Bermuda can start to send more and more athletes to compete in events such as the Olympics.

“Having me and Ceci [Wollmann] at the Olympics, combined with the exposure of the America’s Cup, should help sailing grow like it has never done before in Bermuda.”

In preparation for the Olympics, which start on August 5, Pimentel hopes to have at least two training camps in Guanabara Bay, where the sailing events will be held.

The bay, about 20 miles long and almost as wide in some places, has been at the centre of controversy, as it has shown high levels of viruses and sometimes bacteria from human sewage in the waters where hundreds of sailors will compete.

“The sailing venue in Rio is very tricky, which means that anything can happen during the races,” Pimentel said.

“The racing will be really tight and there will be a lot of inconsistent scores being put up, giving opportunities for all the sailors to have good moments during the event.”

Pimentel expects the eyes of a nation to be on the Lasers, given that 43-year-old Robert Scheidt, Brazil’s most successful Olympian, will be competing in his final Games.

“Sailing is going to be one of the showpiece events of the Olympics, as it will be held with a stunning backdrop of Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer,” said Pimentel, who finished fourteenth in the Lasers at last summer’s Pan Am Games in Toronto.

“Coupled with the controversy of the pollution in the bay and Brazil’s greatest-ever Olympian, Robert Scheidt, competing alongside me in his final Olympics, there should be a massive amount of attention on sailing. I can’t wait.”

Pimentel admits he was not at his best at the Laser World Championships this month in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico, where he finished 36th in the Silver Fleet.

However, he expects to compete at a “high level” at the Olympics under the guidance of his Argentine coach, Dino Weber.

“The World Championships were a tough event for me, as I was still worrying about the wild card and I actually found out during the middle of the event,” said Pimentel, who has climbed to 108th in the world rankings, his highest position.

“Needless to say, my mind wasn’t exactly 100 per cent focused on the event. However, I was happy with the progress I made and I’m feeling really confident about the next couple of months in the lead-up to the Olympics.”