“It definitely had a positive impact, my family and friends could watch the sport I play for the first time and really started following my career. As a consequence of an international event such as the Paralympics, there was huge publicity for us, so a lot of people could start playing wheelchair rugby.”
If it was not for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, wheelchair rugby in Brazil would be virtually unheard of.
A number of unfamiliar sports, including wheelchair rugby, have been put on the map of the host nation of last year’s Paralympic Games, which began exactly one year ago today.
Despite Brazil not winning a match in its Paralympic debut in wheelchair rugby, the exposure the sport received far outweighed expectations.
Just ask Julio Braz, who has been blown away with the response in the last 12 months and admits it has helped take the team to another level.
“The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games had a hugely positive impact on wheelchair rugby, mainly because we experienced unprecedented visibility in our country,” Braz said.
“I believe many people got in touch with our sport for the first time in Rio.
“The number of people willing to be a wheelchair rugby player has increased substantially, so our level of play has consequently improved.”
For Braz, playing in front of an arena full of passionate Brazilian supporters at Rio 2016 was without doubt the greatest moment of his young career in the sport.
“It definitely had a positive impact, my family and friends could watch the sport I play for the first time and really started following my career,” he said.
“It was really a privilege to play in the biggest and most important competition in my home country.”
“As a consequence of an international event such as the Paralympics, there was huge publicity for us, so a lot of people could start playing wheelchair rugby.”
The aim for the Brazilian team is to take these positives and turn them into future success on the world stage.
Qualification for the 2018 International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) World Championships in Sydney, Australia, is in their sights, with the intention of also winning a place in the draw for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
While it may seem like a huge ask from a relatively inexperienced squad to achieve these goals, Braz believes the team has what it takes to do so.
“It would mean the reward for the work we have done and the effort we have put into this project has paid off,” Braz said.
“We aim at improving the level of play even more in Brazil in order to clinch a spot at Tokyo 2020.”