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Gold proves I`m no monkey, says favela star Rafaela Silva

Four years ago, Silva was the victim of sickening racist abuse on social media after she was disqualified from the London Games for a borderline illegal leg-grab.

Last Updated: Tuesday, August 9, 2016 - 04:08
Gold proves I`m no monkey, says favela star Rafaela Silva

Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian judoka Rafaela Silva said that winning gold in Rio on Monday had shoved the taunts of racist detractors back down their throats.

Four years ago, Silva was the victim of sickening racist abuse on social media after she was disqualified from the London Games for a borderline illegal leg-grab.

But having won Brazil`s first gold medal of their home Games in the under-57kg women`s judo competition, Silva said she had silenced those who had called her a monkey.

"People taunted me, they said I was a monkey and my place was in a cage. But I proved my place is in sport and in judo," said Silva, 24, who was born in the notoriously violent City of God favela made famous by a gritty film of the same name in 2002.

On Monday she upset world number one Sumiya Dorjsuren of Mongolia to win the Olympic title.

Now she hopes to inspire others from similarly underprivileged backgrounds.

"It`s great for kids who are watching judo now. Seeing someone like me who left the City of God, who started judo at five years of age as a joke," said Silva, who also won the 2013 world title on home soil.

"To be world champion and Olympic champion is something inexplicable.

"If these children have a dream, they have to believe it can be done. I dedicate this medal to the Brazilian people, my family, my friends."

Silva sank to her knees after winning the title with a half point waza-ari score from a leg reap counter attack, before leaping into the stands to hug her supporters.

She then left the mat in floods of tears before flopping into her coach`s arms.

Silva`s emotions were understandable after almost quitting the sport at just 20 years of age following her London disappointment.

"After my defeat in London, I thought about quitting judo and started doing work with my psychologist," revealed the new champion.

"She did not let me leave judo. My coach encouraged me every day.

"In 2014 and 2015 I didn`t have good results. I was semi-discredited, people said I was an unknown quantity.

"But I came back, I trained to the maximum and the results came."Fighting in front of her home fans she was determined not to let them down.

"The crowd helped me a lot, the mat was shaking so I thought I could not disappoint all those people who came to see me."

Silva continued Brazil`s recent ascension in women`s judo, adding to the first ever gold medal won by the team in London four years ago through Sarah Menezes at under-48kg.

The rise has been meteoric since Ketleyn Quadros won Brazil`s first Olympic women`s judo medal in Beijing in 2008, taking under-57kg bronze.

Quadros`s international career was cut short by the emergence of Silva in 2011 when she took silver medals at the world championships and Pan-American Games.

Silva, ranked only number 11 in the world, had upset the world number two Kim Jandi of South Korea in her second contest.

She needed a period of golden score to get past Romania`s Corina Caprioriu in the semi-final after a nervy bout that remained on tenterhooks throughout.

In the other semi-final, Dorjsuren had accounted for Japanese darling Kaori Matsumoto with a slick shoulder throw from her knees to score the maximum ippon.

London champion Matsumoto bounced back to win bronze, beating her Taiwanese training partner Lien Chen-Ling.

The second bronze went to veteran Telma Monteiro of Portugal, who narrowly beat Caprioriu.

It was the culmination of a career`s striving for Monteiro at her fourth, and probably last Games.

The five-time European champion and five-time world medallist had one gong missing from her collection, until now.

AFP
First Published: Tuesday, August 9, 2016 - 04:08

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