"We are here" could be the three-word summary of the adventure that São Tomé and Príncipe is living on the occasion of the Grand Prix Portugal 2023. "We are here and we are very happy about it" could be added both by Joao Costa Alegre, NOC President and Vice-President of the Association of African National Olympic Committees (ANOCA), and by André Rosa, President of Judo Global Sao Tome and Principe, the national federation.
Joao Costa Alegre (left) and André Rosa (right) watching the judo

"I'm here" could also be the motto of Roldeney De Oliveira, who competed in the -73kg category in his first World Judo Tour tournament; a first for Roldeney and more prosaically a first for his country.

São Tomé and Príncipe is indeed the nation that joined the family of world judo most recently, since the official recognition of the national federation only dates from last year. Thus, in less than a year, being able to participate in the World Judo Tour is already a feat. However, beyond the feat itself, the participation of Roldeney De Oliveira and the presence of Joao Costa Alegre and André Rosa in Almada have a dimension that goes far beyond that of high-level sport.

Joao Costa Alegre explained, “I have a huge appreciation for what is happening this weekend. It is the first time that we have participated in a World Judo Tour event as São Tomé and Príncipe; a new experience for us and it is very important for our country.

As the National Olympic Committee, we have decided to invest in individual sports and judo is one of them. We consider that as an island we have more to do with individual sports.

Eunkyul Lee (KOR) vs Roldeney De Oliveira (STP)

It was also important for us to be present in Portugal, because we have the common language, Portuguese, and it is easier for us to be able to exchange with all our local partners. For me as NOC President, it was important to be here with André as well. He has the knowledge of judo and the judo family and he can explain a lot of things to me.

It is important because we want to create good conditions for the development of judo in our country and I want to be personally involved. What we are looking for is participation in the Olympic Games, but not just participation, we want to qualify athletes. As such, I wanted to warmly thank the IJF, helped us so much to be present during this grand prix.

You know, we are a small country and if the world is affected by repeated crises, so are we. I sincerely believe that sport is a tool, if not THE tool you need to resolve many social crises. I intend to work with all international sports bodies so that we can move the lines.

That's why I think the way judo leads by example is amazing. The sport offers a chance for everyone to participate. The IJF has had development programmes in place for many years which are clearly bearing fruit and encouraging people to participate. It is this taste that we too want to have.

To get there, we have no choice. We have to work with the school sector. Judo in Schools is a must. For this we are working and will work even more with the Ministry of Sports and that of Education.

I can guarantee you that we will get there. Jorge Fonseca is originally from São Tomé and Príncipe. If he did it, there's no reason we couldn't do the same. In the future, I want 10 or 15 Fonsecas."

Joao Costa Alegre has a lot to say and his motivation is complete. André Rosa is not to be outdone, "It's really an honour to be present in Portugal this weekend. It's the first competition for us at this level. Today some will see a defeat with the elimination of our competitor but it's not a defeat. For us, it's either you win or you learn. Today we learned a lot.

We will continue our journey within the judo family. We will continue to participate and give our best. We believe judo can help people become better people. The support we receive from the IJF is crucial. Without that and without the very strong partnership we have with the NOC and President Joao Costa Alegre, it wouldn't be possible.

We are even more aware today than yesterday of the amount of work we have to provide. It's a huge challenge and we are ready for it. We have the motivation and the desire to do better every time. This weekend we took a small step, but that step was important.

Roldeney started judo in 2016 on the island of Principe. Then he went to Sao Tomé and finally recently he moved to Portugal where we were able to find him a judo club which welcomed him very well. He participated in his first local tournaments and won. Now he is the first representative of the country on the world circuit. We are very proud of him and what it means to our young people."

To see the smiles of Joao Costa Alegre and André Rosa make you understand that the participation of São Tomé and Príncipe is not a simple participation. It is synonymous with the will of an entire country to be part of a positive dynamic of development. "When you see that there are 40 new athletes taking part in the grand prix this weekend, you quickly understand that everything the IJF has put in place for years is working. This is an example to follow. Many young people can have new opportunities. We must help our youth to get rid of the claws of modern society which too often suffocate them. All I can say fraternally to President Vizer and his team is that 'We are here!'" concluded Joao Costa Alegre.

You are here and we are happy about it. Welcome to the judo family, São Tomé and Príncipe.

More images of the Grand Prix Portugal 2023 - CLICK HERE

In the meantime during the Grand Prix Portugal 2023

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