In the urban park, to the left of the main avenue of Tokyo Bay, a maze of artificial islands and towers of concrete, steel and glass, Mariana Pajón, paisa, sweeps, as for nine years on the BMX circuit, the bikes minimum, the motocross jumps, vertical ramps, as vertical as the vertical streets of the communes of his Medellín, and ridges, and he does not stop winning even in the quarter series. Champion in London and Rio, she is the favorite one more Games, as was Simone Biles to win her second Games in gymnastics in Tokyo 2020, 500 meters further, to the left of the avenue, a few hours later on the 29th of Julio, and Biles, in fact, is there, restless, unable to stay still, jumping but not flying, because she is in the asymmetric corner stand, and she claps like crazy at the podium, where her partner and friend, Sunisa Lee, only 18 years old, takes the highest place, and stands firm, Lee, from Saint Paul, Minnesota, how cold, and also Biles, from Columbus, Ohio, and they take their right hand to the heart so big while the Star spangled banner, the anthem that salutes the fifth consecutive victory in an Olympic Games of a North American gymnast in the complete contest. And Lee, the daughter of Cambodian parents who came to the United States as refugee children from the Vietnam War in 1975, and always lives with the drama – the father was paralyzed when he fell from a tree while helping a friend; her uncles died of Covid 19 in 2020 – she always tells her boss, Simone, you’re my hero.
And the one who was going to win until her head told her that there was something more important in life than medals, and that the world admired her for that too, a spectator of herself, applauding the one who won. In the last five Games, after the Sydney that crowned the Romanian Simona Amanar, all the winners have been Americans
And to the right of Sunisa Lee, a little step below, Rebeca Andrade, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, smiles radiantly, a Latin power that makes Bach sound first to the organ of the evangelical church, her religion, and then the funk of the slum dance of his musician and friend from São Paulo MC Joao, his life, memory of his humble origins, for his exercise of the ground, pure fire and energy, so much that his foot goes out of the tapestry of springs in a couple of diagonals in which he arrives so high that it removes the cobwebs (which are not there, this is Japan, hygiene and cleanliness to the maximum) from the wooden ceiling of the pavilion. It is the riskiest exercise (5.9 difficulty). None of those who fight for the medals dares with so much. The four-tenths penalty for footsteps that venture into the dark blue frame of the ground, the punishment for risk, cost Andrade the victory, the first Latin American to climb a gymnastics podium at the Olympic Games, and she is not a champion for just over a tenth.
Latin Power ever. Energy, life, power to fly to the roof, trouble landing on a floor made of several layers of nylon glued with velcro on a 14 by 14 meter sheet that hides tremendous springs. Ability to jump again, a spring that recovers its position after each blow, of a 22-year-old gymnast, a Taurus from May 1999, who has torn the ligaments of one knee three times, and nine months of recovery for each one, and weeks of depression and crying. The last operating room, fall 1999. Biles cried the day it was announced that Tokyo was delayed a year; Andrade bounced with joy: the delay allows him to recover, win the Pan American Games and qualify for his second Olympic Games after suffering a bad experience in Rio. And it goes where the pioneer Daiane Santos, a world champion in 2003, but never an Olympic medalist, did not.
Third finishes Russian Angelina Melnikova, the gymnast who led her team in Tuesday’s victory over the United States team from which Biles was overshadowed. The Spanish Roxana Popa – magnificent jump, good ground, regular bars and poor balance, shaky and insecure – is classified 22nd.
Andrade begins by leading the way with the most difficult jump, the Cheng that Biles loves so much, and best performed. And nobody happens to him in the asymmetric ones, Lee’s specialty. And while the North American woman, butterflies in her stomach, almost uncontrollable nerves, resists on the balance beam, and in the hall, Andrade rehearses and memorizes all the steps, jumps and capers, somersaults and wolf steps that she will do later on a wood 10 centimeters wide. In the corridor, perfect, on the bar, no, and there she unbalances, and does not fall, but she comes out third, behind the Russian girl Vladislava Urazova, 16, surprising first when only the floor is missing. You need to risk, and you risk, and your foot slips away. Urazova fails, but not Lee, of the Hmong ethnic group, a people who wander from China to French Indochina, subjected like cannon fodder to the colonial army in its ever-lost wars, and fighter for their identity to be recognized in the United States. And the gold that hangs around his neck will carry the message to every corner. And the silver of Andrade, who remembers that gymnastics, also Latin power, pride, is no longer the fortress of four powers, shines like a small light of hope in all the favelas of Sao Paulo.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.