Rio WC : Rafaela Silva, judo or death
Born in a favela, the -57kg world vice-champion said no to destiny and to a world of violence taking advantage of a encounter… 19 years old, Monster Beats headphones on her ear a shy smile which shows aglimpse of her braces…Rafaela Silva looks fragile. Behind that frail shape, hides a warrior. A young girl born on the wrong side of the tracks, in one of the worst South American favelas, the famous Cidade de Deus, city of God, on the uplands of Rio. In one of these houses built of nothing trapped on the sides of hills from where we can see the tiny dots of t tourists and wealthy Cariocas basking on the beaches of Leblon, Ipanema and Copa Copacabana. Two worlds that meet but never interact… A planned hell. The left-handerwith quick uchi-mata doesn’t hesitate tospeakiopenly about it : « Igrew up with one of my cousin who is a dealer today. He’ll probably be dead any time soon… I saw the sadness and violence of his existence. So I understood that judo could be my only chance. » A survival instinct that gave her a very keenfighting sense. In Bercy, the young Brazilian could tell herself when she arrived with her big suitcase at Roissy that she was « too young to get to a world final, to live all of this now », the Italian Giulia Quintavalle, the Spanish Bellorin, the Greek Boukouvala, the German Roper, the American Malloy weren’t correctly prepared mentally All this because of a meeting. That withGeraldo Bernades at the age of five, who managed her( first towards the " Reaçao " program (1200 disadvantaged young people throughout the country this day) of the Olympic medal-holder Flavio Canto. That was in 2000. In 2009, in Bangkok for her junior world title she beat Automne Pavia… Then everywhere, on the 5 continents, protected by the Brazilian family. Rosi Campos, coach and real mother of the women'sgroup. « She'smy daughter. Yes, she is shy, but in private she is so funny. What impresses me with Rafaela is her pure mind. My job is to guide her. Ten years ago she didn’t even now this world existed. »
Marked by her dreams, her hopes, her responsibility too. On her left arm, the strongest, a raw(do you mean "new") tattoo traced on her mixed-race skin : mingled words where we can read, encircled : Sonho (dream), judo, paixao (peace), realidade (reality)… The meaning she gives to all of this ? Get her out of the poverty. Her obsession ? The prize money on the world circuit. Money to change her life. She has won about 15000 dollars since last January. Thanks to the money won in Panama, Dusseldorf, in Sao Paulo, Porto La Cruz and San Salvador she bought a new house for her parents, and landher older sister Raque and for the younger, Akaine (a -52kg that we might here about soon), a real house in Freesia. Far from the gunshots between gangsters and the antigang brigadeAn enormous responsibility forthe future of a whole family when you have just left childhood.
Sitting on a chair, wearing havainas, chin on her knee, Rafaela tells us she is trying to take a bit of distance. « A couple of months ago, I was thinking about it all the time, I was asking myself « how much is the prize money on this tournament ? », it was obligatory for me to win and it made me really nervous. I changed after talking with those who are moreexperienced, especially Mayra Aguiar. Even ifmy goal hasn’t changed It has taken some weight off my shoulders. Now when I don’t feel like training I tell myself « hey, you know why you are doing this ?. What has changed the most since 2009 ? Before I wanted to play. Now I know it is my job and this if Iwanted to keep my character and my identity, I have to be rigorous. » And not only on the mat, Flavio Canto, impressed by her success, keepaweather eye open. « I travel with her, I see her progress in judo and as a person. She proves that anything is possible. What she does is an example, but she must think about her future, her studies. The change in her life must be supported by us in her education. » Rafaela Silva, world champion at home next week in Rio ?
Olivier Remy & Juliane Damon-Scowcroft