WOBURN – For players from countries not included in the Solheim Cup or UL International Crown, the opportunities to represent their country are few, making the chance to represent their nation this summer at the Olympic games in Rio a privilege many wouldn’t have enjoyed without golf’s return to the games.
Paraguay’s Julieta Granada will be one of the few players competing in Rio having grown up competing on a larger stage, representing her nation in championships in the under-15 and under-18 division. And as Granada grew in age so did the competition, competing in both the 2014 South America Games and 2015 Pan America Games, where she won gold and bronze medals respectively.
“I always felt like I played my best when representing my country. It’s like a little a little flag in your heart and it doesn’t go away,” Granada told LPGA.com. “When I see someone else from my country succeeding I go absolutely crazy so I think I’m very patriotic.”
While the idea of representing Paraguay isn’t entirely new, what will be unique is the honor Granada was bestowed in being the flag bearer for her country at the opening ceremonies in Rio.
“There was a report in the newspaper that said I was going to get to carry the flag but it wasn’t official,” Granada said. “So when I went home they said nothing in the newspaper is official. We have to ask you actually official now. So I was like ‘oh sweet!’ He was like would you like to do it? I said absolutely it would be my honor. There’s a lot, about 10 to 12 athletes from Paraguay, so I was definitely very lucky to be picked.”
Granada will make two trips to Rio from Orlando, which she now calls home, in order to carry the flag and play a practice round at the Olympic Golf Course, a links style layout which Granada says is her favorite. She will then return home to make last minute preparations before returning for the competition during the second week of the games. While the LPGA Tour winner is the first to admit the Olympics will be different, she does believe her experience competing in the other games will make her more comfortable than some of the other athletes competing in Rio.
“It was cool because the whole process I did two years ago which was just South America and then all of America, so it just got progressively bigger. So the Olympics will obviously be much bigger. But I kinda know how the operation works, how it’s run what we need to do what we don’t need to do,” Granada said. “So all that stuff I’m aware of it, I already experienced it, so I think that’s definitely an advantage.”
Granada will take in the full experience of being an Olympian, staying in the Olympic Village on both her trips to Rio and making a priority of getting to know and even learn from the other athletes.
“I think just I’m always super curious of how other athletes train and what they do how they approach their sport what type of things they do or don’t do. So I’m looking forward to just being around other athletes and learning hopefully something about the preparation or what they do in competition or after competition. I think you can always learn from stuff like that, especially in other sports that is not similar but in the end is similar you know, you’re trying to perform the best you can.”
Should Granada prove to be the best in Rio and receive a medal, she would be just the second to do so for Paraguay. The country’s only Olympic medal came in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens when the soccer team earned silver.
“It’s going to be fun, I’m going to enjoy the experience I’m going to try and do my best and see what happens.”