Latin America Flexes Its Muscles
This has been a big weekend for Latin America. Their first Top 8, and they put two players in it. Argentina is in the thick of the teams competition, just one point out of first place. What better place to make a big splash than World Championships?
The Argentinean National Team
For a long time Latin America has been completely off the Magic world radar. The economic situation in Latin America makes Magic a very expensive pastime. Prohibitive travel costs kept the best players from showing off their skills at Pro Tours. The removal of the Latin American Championships was a disaster for their pro community. Their Grand Prix were seen as hunting grounds for North American pros, but always a Latin American would take the title. They were the only Magic Community not to have made their mark after Japan put Tsuyoshi Fujita in the Top 8 of Pro Tour - Tokyo.
All that is turned around today, with the success of Carlos Romao of Brazil and Argentinean National Champion Diego Ostrovich. Ostrovich is a regular at South American Grand Prix Top 8's, and last year came within a hair of greatness when he made the finals of Latin American Championships. There he faced Scott Richards, who defeated him and took the spot at the Magic Invitational. Romao won Grand Prix - Rio in 2001 but since then "The Brazilian Huey" has kept a low profile. No more.
As if the potential for a Latin American World Champion wasn't enough, Argentina ended the singles competition in second place on the Team Leaderboard, just one point behind Germany. If their Rochester Drafting skills match the rest of their repertoire, Ostrovich could appear in both final matches.
So what was the big change that made all this success possible? Talking with Romao and Ostrovich, they agreed it came down to one thing: Preparation. It used to be the case that the Latin American countries worked in isolation, and their limited stable of pro-caliber players made testing difficult. This time around Brazil, Argentina and Chile have pooled their resources. They set up a mailing list to talk technology and share results. Above all, they've been testing the formats nonstop, a dedication that has been borne out in their performances. For Ostrovich, the networking was invaluable. His preparation with his Argentinean teammates extends back to Grand Prix - Sao Paulo, where Gabriel Caligaris won the whole show. He knows that his success here is not just his, but also that of all the players working with him.
Romao, too, recognizes that the enormity of his accomplishment extends beyond the personal. He and Ostrovich have put Latin America on the map. Respect may be hard to earn, but two in the Top 8 of an eighteen round event is nothing short of remarkable. He hopes that this will not only build Latin America's reputation, but also encourage its players to reach for the highest level of competition, developing Latin America's pro player base. Success on the Tour has always been Romao's dream, and he's accomplished it this weekend. He wants players to know that it is possible.