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East Timor teen goes from hotel pool to Asian Games

© AFP/File | A half-island country sandwiched between Indonesia and Australia, the former Portuguese colony has just 1.2 million people


She trains at a hotel pool and has little chance of making a splash at the Asian Games, but East Timor's Imelda Felycita Ximenes Belo hopes to inspire future athletes from her tiny nation.

The 19-year-old Belo, who only learned to swim a few years ago, is the first Timorese swimmer to compete at the Games which kick off Saturday in Indonesia.

She is among a 69-athlete contingent eyeing its first medal at the world's second-biggest multi-sport event.

A half-island country sandwiched between Indonesia and Australia, the former Portuguese colony has just 1.2 million people and usually makes headlines for poverty and political unrest rather than sporting success.

"Well, I don't really hope for winning a medal. As everyone can see, we don't have really a good swimming pool and less equipment," Belo told AFP.

"I just hope that I could get the best experience from this so the next generation could win in the next Asian Games."

The football team will also struggle to make a dent in the shadow of regional powerhouses like South Korea, Japan and China, which crushed Timor 6-0 this week in a qualifying match.

"We had just one week of training after the domestic league and so I think it's not enough time, but our players will do their best," said team coach Norio Tsukitate, who last headed the tiny Himalayan kingdom Bhutan's national squad.

"But when we go to Indonesia for the Asian Games we need to play 100 percent. We need to have passion."

It may be a different story in Taekwondo, however.

Nilton Gilman Cortereal De Jesus Lemos, the 2017 Southeast Asian Games bronze medal winner in the martial art, is optimistic that he can kick his way into the top three, alongside colleagues including Ana da Costa da Silva Pinto Belo.

"I'm ready to compete in the Asian Games and show other countries that we Timorese can do it," she said.

© 2018 AFP