Venezuela's BENITEZ ROMERO devotes life to fencing and favelas

RIO DE JANEIRO - Alejandra Jhonay BENITEZ ROMERO (VEN) has successfully merged the cut and thrust of fencing with lending a helping hand to the less fortunate.

She will be competing in her fourth Olympic Games and at 36 has no plans to quit the sport she has enjoyed for more than two decades.

Nor does she intend to give up the two other passions in her life away from the fencing piste - charity and politics.

The former Venezuelan sports minister devotes her time to lifting the lives of those in the favelas of Caracas.

"My first home was in Caracas's favelas," she said. "My work in Venezuela is based right there. For me it's neither dangerous nor complicated, I work the whole time in Venezuelan favelas and there are no problems if I help people.

"My foundation promotes our sport as we organise fencing exhibitions for the kids of the favelas. We set up a fencing piste and we get them to play. We also bring clothes and food.

"The sport is always good for the kids and the people who live in those conditions. I want them to look at all the good life that fencing can bring them."

BENITEZ ROMERO adopts a more aggressive role in her sporting and political activities."I always liked politics because there is even more combat than fencing," she said.

"I had been for five years a deputy of the Venezuelan congress, the National Assembly, and I worked on changing the law of sports in Venezuela. After this, (Nicolas) MADURO (the Venezuela president) called me to be the minister of sport.

"Even before getting into politics I had always tried to help my community and the children of Caracas, and the persons who are detained in prison."

The silver medallist at the 2015 Pan American championships will continue to juggle sport with her social work.

"Everyone tells me that I'm old, that I'm already 36 and I should retire from fencing, but I don't feel old and I want to go on competing," she said. "I've been 21 years in the world of fencing competitions, but I haven't had enough yet."


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