Brazilian gymnast Rebeca Andrade made history at the Tokyo Olympics for the second time on August 1, when she won gold in the women’s artistic gymnastics vault final. Rebeca’s win marks the first time anyone from her country has won a gold medal in gymnastics in Olympic history. The 22-year-old gymnast earned her gold medal just two days after she won silver in the women’s all-around final, becoming the first Brazilian woman to win any Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics ever.
Rebeca’s wins comes in the absence of American gymnast Simone Biles who was the favorite for gold in every women’s artistic gymnastics event at the Tokyo games. Simone dropped out of both the all-around and vault finals among others after the first event (vault) at the team finals due to having the twisties. However, Rebeca won both of her medals with a significant margin over most of her fellow gymnasts, including the U.S.A.’s Mykayla Skinner and Korea’s YEO Seojeong.
Rebeca performed two vaults to secure her win, a Cheng which concludes with a front one-and-a-half twist and the difficult Amanar, which involves two-and-a-half twists and hasn’t been performed by Rebeca in competition in several years. The Brazilian gymnast scored a combined 15.083, inching out the U.S.A.’s Mykayla Skinner who scored a 14.916 to earn the silver medal and Korea’s YEO Seojeong who scored a 14.733 to nab the bronze.
“I don’t know… reaching the podium…I didn’t imagine that I would return doing all these vaults, improving my first vault,” she said on Sunday after her win, reports Olympics.com. “It’s been a huge pride for me because I saw how much I’ve grown, I’ve matured, and it’s really good,” she said.
Rebeca’s journey to Tokyo has been a long and difficult one. After competing at the Rio Olympics in 2016 in her home country without medaling, she tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) multiple times, most recently in 2019, which kept her from competing in the World Championship that year and ultimately cost the Brazilian team their chance to qualify for the Olympics as a whole. Rebeca then had to deal with multiple setbacks related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the delayed Tokyo Olympics, including contracting the virus herself back in December 2020.
She ended up being one of the final gymnasts to qualify for the Olympics as an individual in June 2020, just a few weeks before the games kicked off on July 23. Now, Rebeca will return home to Brazil proudly holding the country’s only two Olympic medals in women’s artistic gymnastics.