Judo: Favela dwellers’ way out of poverty
Brazil’s first gold-medal winner at Rio 2016 came from the City of God favela where youngsters have found hope.
Brazil’s first gold medal at this years Olympic Games came in judo when Rafaela Silva overcame top-seed Sumiya Dorjsuren of Mongolia to the women’s -57kg event.
Silva grew up in the City of God favela and became a rare success story, raising her arms to the crowd in triumph and banishing memories of London 2012, when she was disqualified in the early rounds owing to a rule violation.
Following early years of trouble when she got into fights in the neighbourhood, Silva found structure in her life through judo and went on to attend the Instituto Reacao, founded by Olympic bronze medallist Flavio Canto.
“Judo changed my life. I was a child inside a community with no dreams or objectives in life,” said Silva.
“The only thing I could think of was to have a cool bicycle, or have something cool to wear like my friends but my family had no money. And it was through judo I was able to get some sponsors … I could help my family, which is the most important thing for me.”
Mateus is an 11-year-old judoka training at the same place as Silva. He lost his father in a shooting five years ago and it was that tragedy that led him closer to the sport.
“When he heard about his father’s passing, he went downstairs with his friends and entered the gates of the judo institute,” Keila Ferreria Guimaraes, Mateus’ mother, told Al Jazeera.
“He was six, and started training to overcome his sadness and anger. I thought it was something temporary. But judo became his passion. It changed his life.”