Brazilian gymnast Rebeca Andrade just became the first woman from her country to win a medal in women’s artistic gymnastics in the history of the Olympic games. The 22-year-old competed in the individual all-around competition on July 29 at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo and earned the silver medal, beating out Russian gymnast Angelina Melnikova who took the bronze with America’s Sunisa Lee taking gold in the event. It was also a historic moment for Sunisa who became the first Asian American woman to win gold in the Olympics’ all-around competition.
“I am super happy,” Rebeca told the press. “I hoped for this moment, and I have trained and worked super hard for this moment. I don’t have any words to describe how I am feeling, nor the feeling of having the Olympic silver medal around my neck.”
Rebeca’s journey to this historic win wasn’t easy. She battled through the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and the delayed Tokyo Olympics and also dealt with ongoing injuries. Among those were tearing her anterior cruciate ligament for the third time while competing at the Brazilian Championships in 2019, which resulted in the Brazilian team not qualifying for the 2020 Olympics.
The determined athlete underwent surgery and rehab, and set about qualifying for the games as an individual. Along with over 100 other Brazilian athletes she traveled to Portugal to train for the Olympics because the pandemic hit Brazil so badly. Rebeca still ended up contracting the virus in December 2020, and once again had to put her training on hold because even though she was asymptomatic, she had to quarantine until the virus cleared her body.
At the beginning of June, Rebeca still hadn’t qualified for the Olympics, which kicked off on July 23, but she kept pushing forward, competing at the Pan American Championships for one of two spots that would get her to Tokyo. She won the all-around by a margin of four points.
In Tokyo, she qualified for the all-around competition in second place, only behind Simone Biles, considered to be the greatest female gymnast of all time. Simone ended up dropping out of the all-around competition due to a condition known as twisties. This essentially opened up a spot on the podium. Rebeca saw the opportunity, and quite literally ran with it. She scored a very high 15.3 on her vault putting her safely in contention for a medal.
In fact, she very nearly nabbed the gold, but stepped out of bounds twice during her energetic floor routine, and ended up just 0.135 points behind gold medalist Sunisa Lee. That means, if everything had gone exactly the same in the competition, even if Simone Biles had not dropped out, Rebeca very likely would have still medaled. We commend Rebeca for her resilience and perseverance and celebrate this major win for Brazil.