“Plucky” or “valiant”, some will say. And at least one commentator will compare the country to the size of Rhode Island.
Mention of Luxembourg athletes will also give broadcasters and reporters a chance to remind their audience about the “true” spirit of the games as entrenched in the famous quote by the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin. “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part.”
The team of 10 athletes from the Grand Duchy will not care a jot, of course. For some, like 800-metre runner Charline Mathias, Rio will be a first Olympics and the experience is reward for years of hard work and dedication.
For others, such as swimmer Raphaël Stacchiotti, the 2016 Games are a third Olympics even though he is just 24--he became the Grand Duchy’s youngest ever competitor at the age of 16 in Beijing in 2008. He is joined by fellow swimmer Laurent Carnol, also in his third games.
But their achievements are dwarfed by veteran table tennis player Ni Xialian. At the age of 53, she will be competing in her fifth Olympiad.
Two competitors who made names for themselves in events in the UK in June are also bound for Brazil. Tennis player Gilles Muller reached the quarter finals of the Queen’s Club tournament, and cyclist Christine Majerus won the first stage of the Aviva Women’s Tour. Fränk Schleck has been on the podium of the Tour de France.
These are not the stories of “plucky” athletes from “tiny Luxembourg” merely making up the numbers, but of genuine contenders on the world stage.