Brazilian Olympic gold medalist almost quit judo because of racism
On Monday afternoon, Rafaela Silva won the biggest match of her life on home soil by defeating Mongalia’s Dorjsürengiin Sumiya in the 57-kilogram division in women’s judo to claim Brazil’s first gold medal at the Rio Olympics. The judoka Silva not only offered Brazil the very first gold medal of its Olympic Games. At the age of 24, she showed a whole nation that a favela child could climb to the top of world sport.
From street brawling to tatami
The judoka was born only a few kilometers from the Olympic Center, in one of the most dangerous favelas of Rio, made famous by the film “City of God”. The one who was tattooed on the arm “God only knows what I suffered to get there” could have followed a less glorious trajectory. The little girl learned how to fight in streets full of war gangs where the gun shots slam every day.
But to avoid seeing her sink and take the wrong path, her parents decided early to channel her energy and aggressiveness by enrolling her in a local judo club founded by a former Brazilian champion Flavio Canto. Gifted, the girl realizes very quickly that judo can be a good way out. In 2008, she won her first world title at the junior championships.
Four years later, all eyes are turned towards her at the London Olympic Games but the beautiful story then takes a wrong turn. Disqualified early in the Olympic tournament, she is the target of many racist comments on the Internet. “I was very sad because I lost my fight, I went back to my room and found all the insults on the social networks that criticized me and called me a monkey. I was so angry and I thought I’d quit judo. ”
For months, Rafaela Silva remains at home in front of the TV, unable to climb on a tatami. But her character of champion eventually regain the upper hand and succeeded in making her forget her failure. More motivated than ever, she goes back on the tatami and won the world title in 2013 in Rio.
Her hometown gave her a definite chance. The disappointment of 2012 is now of ancient history. Rafaela Silva has entered the legend of this sport. “The monkey they wanted to lock up in a cage in London is now an Olympic champion at home,”