Rebeca Andrade soars to women's vault gold

Days after taking all-around silver, the 22-year-old became the first Brazilian woman to win artistic gymnastics gold

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Rebeca Andrade never gave up hope. Not when she tore her ACL, a third time, at the 2019 Brazilian Nationals. Not when the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were pushed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not ever.

Each setback pushed her, hardened her resolve.

"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 in October 2019.

That determination paid off in spades Sunday (1 August) as she soared to the women's vault gold medal in the first day of apparatus finals for artistic gymnastics. Andrade's 15.083 held off Team USA's MyKayla Skinner, who averaged 14.916. Republic of Korea's YEO Seojeong was the bronze medallist at 14.733.

"I feel so overwhelmed, happy," Andrade told after. "I'm feeling incredible."

Andrade came to Tokyo looking strong, debuting a Cheng vault (round off on the board, half turn on the vaulting table, front one-and-a-half twist) during the qualifying rounds. In Sunday's apparatus final, Andrade brought back her difficult two-and-a-half twisting vault to win gold.

Thursday (29 August), Andrade won the silver medal in the all-around, close behind USA's Suni Lee. She now owns the only two Olympic medals in women's gymnastics for Brazil. Arthur Zanetti is the only other Brazilian to win artistic gymnastics gold.

Andrade's injuries kept her out of the 2019 World Championships. It was the first of a series of mishaps for Brazil, which, then, failed to qualify a full team to the Tokyo Games. Andrade only secured her quota spot for the Olympic Games on June 6, after winning the all-around at the Pan Am Championships in Rio.

"First, thank you God!" Andrade said in a post on Instagram after punching her Olympic ticket. "Thank you all... thanks for all the positive energy, thanks for believing in me at all costs... I just have to thank you, really!!!"

Sunday, Andrade couldn't believe her success.

"I don't know... reaching the podium... I didn't imagine that I would return doing all these vaults, improving my first vault," she said. "It's been a huge pride for me because I saw how much I've grown, I've matured, and it's really good"