After winning Brazil’s first gold medal of the Rio Olympics, Rafaela Silva took aim at the racism that first threatened to defeat her and then became the thing that spurred her to greatness.
Silva was disqualified in London for an illegal move and was described online as a monkey and taunted with other abuse.
She considered giving up but friends – and the help of a psychologist – convinced her to keep going.
The 24-year-old proved them right and the doubters wrong last week when she won gold.
“I can serve as an example for the children of the community, because just being black means that people look at you in a different way. You walk down the street and people hold on to their bags,” Silva said in an interview.
“[The victory] shows the value that a child from a favela can have.
“I just remembered that sensation I had and the suffering of that defeat and I wanted to have a different feeling,” Silva added.
“Judo has its favourites but the one that wins on the mat is the one who wants it most and in my house no one wants it more than me.”
Silva, who was woken after four hours of sleep by friends desperate to see her medal, promised to keep going and defend her title in Tokyo in 2020.
“I am still young and I want to feel like I did yesterday more times,” she said.