Finally, Brazil’s first Olympic gold in Rio has become a reality, a symbol of hope for a country that has been plagued with political upheavals for years, pulling their already emerging economy down to its knees.
Barely a week before the Rio 2016 Olympics’ opening ceremony, the country’s preparation for such a global event was hit by a number of issues, as reported by the CBS Sports: the Zika virus, safety, golfers dropping out, Russian doping scandal, uninhabitable Olympic village, water and air pollution, infrastructure delays, and doping lab suspension. All of these piled up on Brazil’s federal government’s instability.
Then came the moment of the competition. Nearly three days thereafter, all the Brazilian athletes could give their country was one medal, a silver, won by Felipe Wu in the men’s 10-meter air pistol event.
That was enough to hope for more, despite the unexpected loss of Sarah Menezes, who in 2012 brought home the Olympic gold with her for her country after beating the Olympic champion Alina Alexandra Dumitru of Romania in the women’s 48 kg judo match in London.
The clock was ticking very slowly as the Brazilians had high hopes for their next medal. Never did they expect (or, didn’t they?) that this time around it would be Brazil’s first Olympic gold medal.
The winner: Rafaela Silva, a black woman who hails from Cidade de Deus (City of God), one of Rio’s impoverished favelas, only five miles away from Carioca Arena 2 where she won Brazil’s first Olympic gold.
Bowing down to Silva’s clinches was Mongolia’s Dorjsurengiin Sumiya in the women’s 57 kg judo gold medal match to the delight of her Brazilian fans who, after singing and chanting and jumping up and down, as The Guardian reported,”surged to the railings of the two-tiered stadium to get a better look.”
“Olympic volunteers tasked with the job of keeping the aisles clear seemed helpless to stop the fans.” The Guardian said. “In many cases the volunteers stood and watched themselves.” It was indeed a symbolic moment for their country.
Silva was a returnee to the Olympic games who suffered humiliation in London in 2012. She was disqualified for what was deemed to be an illegal move.
“It was very difficult to overcome the problem from 2012, but I insisted that judo was my life,” Silva said in a press conference after the event, as quoted by the Toronto Star.
“I counted on my coach, and on God, and support from my family and the Brazilian people. People would taunt me by saying that the place for you is for a monkey in a cage, but I insisted my place is in sports, it’s in judo. That’s what I dedicate my life to.”
“Amazing, totally amazing,” shouted Tomaz Segundo, who, according to the Time, is a doctor from the northeastern Brazilian city of Natal.
“She’s a hero, coming from the poor area. What a relief,” added the elated Segundo, who had the honor to witness the match from which came Brazil’s first Olympic gold in Rio.
And it was there, from that poor area called Cidade de Deus, that an Olympic gold medalist to be was made.
As the Time hinted at, “Silva developed her aggression trying to survive in her violent neighborhood, which has been ‘pacified’ — or taken over by military police. Still, it’s a violent area.”
“My first coach and teacher always told me that I had a tendency toward aggressiveness,” Silva recalled.
“He sort of noticed I had a skill. I was always climbing over walls, to get a kite that might have fallen down out of the sky,” added the title holder of Brazil’s first Olympic gold in Rio, as quoted by the Time.
“I had a dream. And those kids have their dreams, too. If you can achieve your dreams through sports, do it. Hopefully I can be an example,” Silva advice the youth of the impoverished Brazilian favelas for whom she has just become a symbol of hope.
[Photo by Markus Schreiber/AP Images]