Brazilian judo gold medalist Rafaela Silva was given a hero’s welcome as she rode a fire truck into the infamous Cidade de Deus, or City of God, favela in Rio de Janeiro on Monday.
Onlookers were photographed waving and cheering for the Olympian, who grew up in the notorious slum.
Silva earned Brazil’s first gold medal of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Brazilian judo gold medalist Rafaela Silva is given a hero’s welcome as she rides a fire truck into the Cidade de Deus slum in Rio de Janeiro on Monday
Silva wore her gold medal on her neck Monday as she waved and smiled
Silva who grew up in the violent, poverty stricken slum, won special mention from IOC president Thomas Bach, saying she’s an inspiration across the world
Neighbors cheer in the street as Silva is welcomed in the favela on Monday
Onlookers raise their arms up toward the sky during the event
Children are pictured cheering on Monday. Silva earned Brazil’s first gold medal of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics
From the favela to the top of the podium, Rafaela Silva earned Brazil’s first gold medal of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
To celebrate, the 24-year-old judo champion shed tears as she jumped into the exuberant crowd with a Brazilian flag wrapped around her shoulders.
‘I hope my medal now will open the door for Brazil to win many more medals,’ Silva said.
Silva, who grew up in the country’s largest slum and became the country’s first female world champion in judo in 2013, won the 57-kilogram division of the Japanese martial art on August 8 as the crowd chanted ‘Rafa’ and waved the green and yellow Brazilian flags.
In the final, Silva beat Sumiya Dorjsuren of Mongolia after two days of disappointment on the mat for Brazil.
To celebrate her win at the Olympics, the 24-year-old judo champion shed tears as she jumped into the exuberant crowd with a Brazilian flag wrapped around her shoulders
In the final, Silva beat Sumiya Dorjsuren of Mongolia
Silva is seen on the podium after her big win at the Olympics
A woman holds her dog as they look at Silva’s welcome into the slum
Silva rides a fire truck as she waves on Monday during the event
People are seen filling the street in the slum on Monday, with Silva on a bus nearby
But the victory provided some vindication for the racial abuse Silva, who is black, endured from Brazilians after missing out on a medal at the 2012 London Games.
Four years ago, she received text messages telling her ‘the place for a monkey is in a cage’.
‘The monkey that they said had to be locked up in a cage in London is today an Olympic champion at home,’ Silva said. ‘Today, I’m not an embarrassment for my family.’
At the last Olympics, Silva was disqualified for an illegal leg grab during a fight against Hedvig Karakas of Hungary.
This time, Silva beat Karakas in the quarterfinals.
Silva, who trained at a judo dojo founded by former Olympic bronze medalist Flavio Canto, was in top form for much of the day. Her first match lasted only 46 seconds.
Silva flashes a big grin as she holds up her medal and waves the Brazilian flag
Silva holds a T-shirt that reads in Potuguese ‘I just want to be happy’
Silva, center, arrives to the street where she used to live in the Cidade de Deus slum
A child watches down below as Silva rides the firetruck
With its strong martial arts culture — including many shared techniques between Brazilian jiu jitsu, mixed martial arts and judo — Brazil had been expected to do well early on in the judo competition.
But defending Olympic champion Sarah Menezes narrowly lost out on a bronze on August 6 in the 48kg category, and so did Erika Miranda at 52kg on August 7.
The women’s bronze medals went to Kaori Matsumoto of Japan — the London Games champion — and Telma Monteiro of Portugal.
A firefighter pushes over a power line as Silva holds up her medal and the Brazilian flag
Onlookers are seen smiling and waving on Monday during the parade
Silva became Brazil’s first female world champion in judo in 2013