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RIO 2016 - A Girl from City of God wins Brazil's first gold medal
Ter, 09 de Agosto de 2016 01:30

Rio and Brazil stopped to see Brazilian judoka Rafaela Silva...

(Rio de Janeiro, BR Press) - It was just another busy Monday in Brazilian metropolis like Rio de Janeiro, despite the Olympic Games going on. But Rio and Brazil stopped to see Brazilian judoka Rafaela Silva beating Sumiya Dorjsuren of Mongolia in the 57kg final and winning the host nation's first gold medal of Rio 2016.

A Girl from the City of God – the very same deprived and violent Rio’s suburban neighbourhood shown in Fernando Meirelles (also the director of the opening ceremony) cult movie that almost won the Oscar in 2003 –, Silva said that her victory showed children from her birthplace that they should believe in their dreams.  The film’s path could be compared to the one of Rafaela Silva. 

London disaster

The Rio de Janeiro’s native judoka was disqualified in the early rounds at London 2012. The referees decided that Silva, who had actually won the match, applied a blow that is no longer allowed under the new rules of judo. There might not be the ones hardly learned by Rafaela at the Instituto Reação – a judo school located in the huge shanty town (“favela”) of Rocinha, in southern Rio. 

Olympian judoka Flavio Canto, bronze medallist at Athens 2004, set up the institute to provide new hope and opportunities to underprivileged youngsters. Teachers at the school were quick to spot Silva's potential  – the same seen at the mat in Rio:  Silva scored waza-ari over Dorjsuren with a throw a little over a minute into the final and was able to hold on to that lead amid deafening cheering from the stands. Yes, Rafaela was transformed into an Olympian in her own right. 

Racism and intimidation

But her willingness and determination were not always that strong. After failing in London, Rafaela was repeatlly bullyed on the internet. She was called a 'monkey' and attacked with other racist offences. Sad and in despair, she almost  considered abandoning the sport before intensive sessions with a sports psychologist that helped her to rediscover her self-esteem and re-ignite her will to compete.

Just one year later, in the World Championships of 2013, she also fought her way to gold, Silva is now the only Brazilian judoka in history to be both Olympic and World Champion - an incredible achievement for an athlete who has beaten not only one opponent but all the odds of a professional athlete, despite economic and social challenges, to stand at the top of her sport. 

 

Rafaela is glad of having the strong support of the fans in the Carioca Arena 2, and especially from her family who were there to support her. "It really helped me with momentum and the pressure. The stadium was shaking, everybody was screaming and cheering me up every minute.I want to thank everyone who cheered for me. The people who saw my suffering daily know I did not like to train. But I've been training a lot these last few years and the results are showing." More than a golden medal, the athlete’s personal history has lifted the spirits of a whole nation.