Rebeca Andrade: “I’m loving the new opportunities”

The world and Olympic champion has enjoyed the chance to share her story of resilience beyond her sport: "Today I'm having a different vision of a totally different world."

By Scott Bregman
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Brazilian gymnast Rebeca Andrade’s historic Olympic gold medal on the vault at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, held in 2021, has brought a bright spotlight on the 23-year-old and her sport.

"My life has changed a lot in a short time. I think that today many more people know me, know my story, my work and that makes me very proud,” she said, according to a report from Gazeta.

In Tokyo, Andrade became the first Brazilian female gymnast to win Olympic gold, taking the vault crown. She also made history in the women’s all-around final, becoming the first South American to make the podium when she won finished second to American Sunisa Lee.

Two months later, the Sao Paulo-native won her nation’s second world title in women’s gymnastics and the first since 2003 when she added the vault gold to her resume.

Andrade is making her 2022 competitive debut Thursday (19 May) when the Brazil Trophy, the nation's individual apparatus championships, kick off.

Andrade's whirlwind

With that success has come big changes in Andrade’s life. The Olympic champion has seemingly been everywhere, including the cover of Brazilian Vogue.

“It's very different. My life has always been geared towards sports and today I'm having a different vision of a totally different world, it's been really cool,” she said. “I'm loving the new opportunities that I was able to have after the Olympics and everything I've done. People are valuing it a lot and I'm really happy."

Andrade’s story is one of resilience, never giving up despite three times tearing the ACL ligament in her knee.

“I've overcome a lot of things and each time I overcame something tough, I was more determined to come back, I wanted to win even more,” Andrade told Olympics.com in October 2019.

Those setbacks made her historic accomplishments in Tokyo at the Kitakyushu worlds even more special.

After the worlds, Andrade’s life has been a whirlwind with increased demands on her time between training, sponsor obligations and more.

"After the Olympics, people were very delighted with what I did, what Flavia Saraiva did and with all our gymnastics history,” she explained. “This is raising our name and our sport a lot. It's what matters to me: doing what I love, people seeing it and feeling connected even though they don't play the same sport as me."

Back to competition

The public has also connected to Andrade’s energic performances on the floor exercise. At Rio 2016, she performed to a medley of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” and “Single Ladies.”

But it was her “Baile de Favela” (in English, favela dance), performed in Tokyo, that really struck a chord.

While Andrade says she plans to keep the popular routine for the 2022 season, according to Globo report, fans will have to wait until later this year to see it once again with Andrade expecting to return to the floor exercise at July’s Pan American Championships in Rio.

But despite the popularity of the exercise, Andrade knows she’ll have to find a new routine, eventually.

“I still don't have any songs in mind. I believe that our choreographer (Rhony Ferreira) doesn't have the music either,” she told Globo. “Once I have it, I won't tell, because it's a surprise (laughs). But in a little while I'll have to change it.”

As the post-Olympic demands on her time begin to slow, the 2022 gymnastics season nears. She’s balancing a busy schedule that now includes going to university in the evenings.

“I'm starting to get used to it now,” she said of her busy schedule, “but the routine is still very busy. Now, [even] a little more because I'm in college. I go to college at night, which is when I have time. I train in the morning and in the afternoon, I do physical therapy.”

When she makes her season debut later this week, she will be performing on the uneven bars and balance beam only.

It will be her first competition under a new code of points, the official set of international rules, which change after each Olympic Games. But she says she’s ready.

“Luckily, I didn't have to change much,” said Andrade. “What I was already doing is still good for this new code. Some girls have to work a little harder, make some changes in gymnastic jumps, some elements. This change to the code is very smooth.”

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