Tokyo 2020 | Gymnastics
After winning the first two female medals of her country in jumping and full competition, she aspires today to the third on the ground, where she starts as a favorite
Making history, Rebeca Andrade has given Brazil the first two medals in its history in women’s artistic gymnastics at these Tokyo Olympics: gold on Sunday in jumping and silver last Thursday in full competition. Five years after Rio 2016, where his good performance helped his team to qualify in the team final, he aspires this Monday to win the third in the floor final (starting at 10:57 in the morning, Spanish peninsular time ).
The absence of Simon Biles, the American star who has already withdrawn from five finals due to a psychological crisis, has opened the gold to the rest of the gymnasts. Among them, Andrade and Russian Angelina Melnikova stand out, who were second and third last week in the final of the full contest. Both were behind Sunisa Lee, the emerging figure of the American team that is already shaping up to be the heir to Biles, but this time they will not face her as a rival. Instead, they will face Jade Carey. In view of the sensational performance of ‘gymnastics-samba’ that Andrade scored in the full final, which even led until ‘Suni’ flew over the asymmetric, the Brazilian starts as a favorite with the confidence reinforced by his gold in jump.
Black and of humble origins in Garulhos, an overcrowded municipality outside of Sao Paulo, for Andrade at the age of 22, another historic opportunity opens up after her first two medals, a just reward after many penalties and injuries that were about to leave her without Games. If it had not been for the coronavirus, which forced him to postpone the Olympic event for a year, it is very likely that he would not have been able to participate, since in the 2019 Brazilian championship he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament for the third time in his career. Without it, the Brazilian team did not qualify for the Games and Andrade had to seek the individual pass at the world championship held in Baku (Azerbaijan) in March last year. Despite his good balance beam and asymmetric grades, the competition was suspended before reaching the finals due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
With the third highest number of infected and deceased in the world, Brazil was so affected that a hundred of its athletes, with Andrade among them, took refuge in Portugal to prepare for the Games. But, in December, she became infected herself and, although she did not have symptoms, she had to temporarily withdraw to comply with the mandatory isolation. With few options to compete this year, it was not until early June that he was able to secure his presence in Tokyo. He did it in the Pan American Championship, which granted two places for the Games, winning the final of the full contest with authority.
As seen in the euphoria unleashed among Brazilian journalists at the Ariake Pavilion in Tokyo, their victories have been celebrated as if the ‘Canarinha’ had achieved a new World Cup. A satisfaction that redeems Brazil not only from its drought in this women’s specialty, but also from the accusations of racism that have plagued its gymnasts in the past. In 2015, the newspaper O Globo revealed a video in which three members of the national team, Arthur Nory Mariano, Fellipe Arakawa and Henrique Flores, made fun of their black teammate Angelo Assumpcao with some tasteless jokes about colors from garbage bags and cell phone screens. Although the three were suspended for 30 days and apologized, the case sparked a bitter controversy that opened the debate on racism in Brazil, where 54 percent of its 212 million inhabitants are black or mestizo.
Although Assumpcao promised a lot, he was not finally selected for the Rio Games, where Nory and Diego Hypolito took the bronze and silver medals on the ground. Depressed after having denounced the “structural discrimination” of Brazilian gymnastics, Assumpcao did not fly back and in November 2019 he was fired for poor performance from his club, Pinheiros, thus ending his sports career. Rebeca Andrade’s historic medals have now avenged her name and cleared Brazil’s.