Rafaela Silva becomes first Brazilian female world champion of Judo!

Rafaela Silva of Rio de Janeiro becomes the first Brazilian woman to become world champion of Judo
Rafaela Silva of Rio de Janeiro becomes the first Brazilian woman to become world champion of Judo

Note from BW of Brazil: Today’s story is an example of perseverance, determination, overcoming the odds and racist criticism. Reported back in August of 2012 on this very blog was the story of a frustrating defeat of Judo fighter Rafaela Silva in the 2012 London Olympics. Silva’s defeat was doubled in disappointment due to two factors: 1) because of a a blow in the fight that was ruled illegal and thus leading to immediate disqualification, and 2) she was taunted by a racist Twitter comment that referred to her as a monkey (macaca). But Silva recently had the last laugh as she became the first Brazilian woman (and by extension, first black woman) to become World Champion of Judo in the championships that were held in Rio de Janeiro, her hometown. In victory, Silva showed that the racist tweet from over a year ago was still on her mind as she referred to the incident in her victory comments. Congrats to Rafaela for staying strong, staying hunger for victory and not letting an ignorant comment derail her dream!

Silva falls to her knees in celebration of her gold winning victory
Silva falls to her knees in celebration of her gold winning victory

Rafaela Silva is gold in the Judo world

by Claudio Nogueira

World Champion of Judo Rio 2013: August 26 to September 1, Maracanãzinho Gynasium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
World Champion of Judo Rio 2013: August 26 to September 1, Maracanãzinho Gynasium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

A common athlete would have given up. But not someone with the DNA and destiny of a champion. Eliminated in the 2012 London Olympics because of a strike that considered illegal and called names on social networks, Rafaela Silva even thought about changing categories, but she continued as a lightweight (57kg or 125 lbs). A good thing, because on August 27th in Maracanãzinho (Gymnasium), she became the first Brazilian female world champion of judo by applying an ippon on American Marti Mallori 50 seconds into the fight. This is Brazil’s third medal in this World Championship after the country won the bronze with Sarah Menezes and the silver with Erika Miranda.

Silva defeated the French woman and number one ranked Automne Pavia on her way to the gold
Silva defeated the French woman and number one ranked Automne Pavia on her way to the gold

Rafaela listened to the national anthem on the podium, flanked by Mallory and the bronze medalists, the Slovenian Vlora Bedeti and the German Miryam Roper. The Brazilian Ketleyn Quadros had been eliminated by Malloy in the eighth finals. For the champion, who celebrated with her parents, Luiz Carlos and Zenilda, her sister Rachel and niece Ana Carolina, the title had the flavor of a comeback.

Silva's victory over  American Hana Carmichael
Silva’s victory over American Hana Carmichael

“It was very good to silence those who criticized me and said that the place of the monkey was in a cage. The sport does not depend on color,” Rafaela emphasized. “They put messages in (social) networks criticizing me, saying I was a disgrace. I came to be world champion in my city. In my country no one would take this gold away from me.”

Silva in victory over Loredana Ohai
Silva in victory over Loredana Ohai

Raised in the famous Cidade de Deus (City of God) neighborhood of Rio, she started out as a child, through the influence of her parents, to being an adult world champion, a silver medalist at the Paris World Adult in 2011, and gold at the World Juniors in Thailand in 2008. She is currently ranked fourth in the world.

“Many people have talent and grit, but don’t have money to invest,” commented the athlete from the Instituto Reação (Reaction Institute), of the former judoka Flávio Canto. “It’s great to come from a poor community and set an example for children. It’s not only those who have money or live in a nice place. I came from Cidade de Deus and I am getting to know a lot of the world.”

Silva in her final victory over American Marty Malloy
Silva in her final victory over American Marty Malloy

To win the title, the 21-year old debuted by defeating the American Hana Carmichael. Then she beat the Romanian Loredana Ohai, and then in the quarterfinals, she beat Nora Gjakova of Kosovo. In the semifinal against France’s Automne Pavia, a bronze medalist in London 2012 and ranked number one in the world, the Brazilian was able to prevail by wazari, and thus advanced to the final against Malloy, who was also won the bronze in London.

“The judge had pointed out a wazari, but I saw that the table gave an ippon (a perfect strike, which decides the fight), and it was only happiness. I still haven’t even stopped to think that I am a champion, that I’m making history. God willing, I will get Olympic gold at home in 2016,”  she said, thanking her first coach, Geraldo Bernardes, recalled the memory of her friend Sylvester Travassos and commented on the importance of the participation of Japanese trainer Yuko Fujii, who has been the country for a few months. “Yuko was very important. She always encouraged me and corrected me.”

"Gold at home: World Champion in Judo and in life - Raised since childhood in Cidade de Deus, yesterday the lightweight carioca Rafaela Silva became the first Brazilian female world champion of Judo"
“Gold at home: World Champion in Judo and in life – Raised since childhood in Cidade de Deus, yesterday the lightweight carioca Rafaela Silva became the first Brazilian female world champion of Judo”

Dressed in a T-shirt with the inscription “Keep calm and today there is Rafaela Silva”, her relatives hugged and kissed her.

“She (Rafaela) didn’t want to get into judo and started playfully, in doubt between judo and soccer,” said her mother, Zenilda .

At her side, her father, Luiz Carlos commented that his daughter’s first coach, Geraldo Bernardes,  always bet on her:

“I thought she played soccer well, but Geraldo felt that her future was in judo.

As happy as her parents were Geraldo and Rosicleia Campos, who was female coach on maternity leave.

“At about 8 years old, she looked like a street urchin, playing ball and being expelled from school. Today, she is a grown woman, champion of the world and in life, who is enrolled in the first semester of psychology,” declared Geraldo.

With almost no voice because of from the pulpit, since she could not stand beside the mat, Rosicleia was thrilled.

“This year, I had won my two golds (twins), and now this. Rafaela loves challenges, and needs to be challenged. It’s a warrior’s life, on the mat and world champion,” she praised before revealing that, “Rafaela is loving and when one is right in (their) personal life, she will take it to the mat. She deserves to be happy.”

The superintendent coach of the Confederação Brasileira de Judô (CBJ or Brazilian Judo Confederation (CBJ), Ney Wilson noted that it was the only medal that Brazilian Judo didn’t have.

“Now it has them all in the masculine and the feminine. The women have grown in meteoric speed over the past five years, and the gold of Sarah and Rafaela are landmarks. I figured we would get to six medals, including a gold in the women’s. We can pass this.”

Source: O Globo

About Marques Travae 3332 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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