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Giraldo flying the flag for Colombia

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Originally published on: 30/07/12 00:00

One of two Colombians who started the men’s singles draw – compatriot Alejandro Falla also impressed before falling to Roger Federer in his opening match – the 24-year-old is delighted to have a second chance to compete under the national flag at his first Games after setting up a second round clash with Belgium’s Steve Darcis.

“I am Colombian and I have a national passion,” said Giraldo. “For me it is extra inspiration [to be at the Olympics] and I try to impress that on the court. For me that is very important.

“I like the idea of being an Olympian. When I was eight [years old] I watched the Olympics and it was like a dream. I am feeling very proud to be here, for my country. That is very important for me.”

While some players have opted to stay close to the All England Club, Giraldo and the Colombian team are fully embracing the Olympics. "We are in the [athletes] village. We prefer to fit in with the experience," he said. "It’s a long way to get here, but it’s only one time in four years. Took us 50 minutes to get here – but if you stay in the city and come to Wimbledon it can also take 45 minutes."

Ranked at No.44 in the world, seven places ahead of countryman and world No.51 Falla, Giraldo is leading a developing culture for tennis in his country, according to Guillermo Gonzales Lopez of the National Olympic Committee of Colombia.

“We have a lot of school programmes around the country, especially in Bogota and also, for example, in Giraldo’s city, Pereira, they have a very good programme,” he said. “Now we are growing we are starting to have tennis players in the ATP rankings and Santiago is one of them. He is one of the best we have.”

In light of the rise of Giraldo and Falla, Lopez believes it’s getting easier for youngsters to play tennis in Colombia.

“In the past it was difficult for kids to choose tennis as a sport, but now there are a lot of opportunities with private clubs,” he said. “We also have a programme called Caja des Compositions  – where people with no money can go and play tennis. There are plenty of them around the country.”

Colombia had 104 athletes in its delegation for the Olympics – it’s biggest delegation ever – with three tennis players taking part – Giraldo, Falla and world No.117 Mariana Duque-Marino, who plays Maria Kirilenko today.

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