By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On the morning of Tuesday, August 9th, Brazil is in eleventh place in the Rio 2016 Olympic Game medal race, with one Gold and one Silver. The first Gold for Brazil was won yesterday (Monday, August 8th), by Rafaela Lopes Silva, age 24, in the female 57 kg weight class after defeating the Dorjsürengiin Sumiyaa of Mongolia in the finals.
Silva, who currently holds the rank of third sergeant in Brazil’s Navy, is a Carioca (native of Rio de Janeiro) and grew up in the favela community of Cidade de Deus (City of God). When she was seven years-old her parents signed her and her sister Rachel up for judo classes at the Instituto Reação, recently opened in the community by former Olympic bronze medalist Flávio Canto.
The ability of the sisters was recognized early and the coach Geraldo Bernardes asked their father Luiz Carlos if they could remain in judo, as they had potential to become athletes of the seleção (national team). Now after competing internationally and building on victories since 2008, she has taken the Gold for Brazil.
Silva told the press after the competition, “I want to show that a child who left the City of God, and started in the sport of judo, today is a world and Olympic champion. If you have a dream, you have to believe,” she said, before dedicating the championship “to the Brazilian people, to family and friends.”
Silva opened her 2016 Olympic tournament with a lightning victory over Miryam Roper of Germany, then beat Kim Jan-di of the Republic of Korea, who was second place in the world ranking. Next came her match against Hedvig Karakas of Hungary which she won with just one minute left.
The most difficult match of the Olympic campaign Silva faced was the semifinal against Corina Căprioriu of Romania. An even tie persisted after the four minutes of regulatory time, and the judges decision sent her through to the finals, and ultimately the Gold medal.