Adhemar da Silva was born to a poor family and did not take up athletics until he was 19, but his talent was soon noticed by German coach Dietrich Gerner, who guided him throughout his career. Da Silva was already selected for the 1948 Brazilian Olympic team, where he finished eighth in the triple jump. In December 1950 he equaled the triple jump world record of 16.00, set by Naoto Tajima at the 1936 Olympics and won triple jump gold at the 1951 Pan American Games before setting a world record of 16.01 in September 1951, which stamped him as the clear favorite at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. He did not disappoint, winning the gold medal comfortably, setting two world records in the final – 16.12 in round two and 16.22 in round five. In fact, he bettered the previous world record in Helsinki four times, posting 16.09 in round four and 16.05 in the final round. It was remarkable because 16 metres had been jumped only three times before, twice by da Silva himself and once by Tajima.
After Helsinki, da Silva defended his Pan American title with a world record of 16.56 in 1955 and went to the 1956 Olympics as the favorite. In Melbourne he defended his title with an Olympic record 16.35 in round four. Da Silva last medaled at an international tournament at the 1959 Pan American Games, where he won his third Pan American triple jump title, and last competed internationally at the 1960 Olympics, where he was last, 14th, in the final.
In 1959 da Silva had an acting role at a musical film Orfeu Negro based on a play Orfeu da Conceição by Vinicius de Moraes, portraying Death, which won the Golden Palm of the Cannes Film Festival and an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The film is an adaptation of the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, set in the modern context of a favela in Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval. Da Silva graduated as a sculptor from the Federal Institute of São Paulo in 1948, received a physical education degree from the Preparatory School of Cadets of the Brazilian Army, law degree from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in 1968, and a public relations degree in 1990 from the Faculdade Cásper Líbero, a private university in São Paulo. From 1964-67 he served as the cultural attaché at the Brazilian embassy in Lagos, Nigeria. Da Silva was inducted into the IAAF Hall of Fame in 2012.
Personal Best: TJ – 16.56 (1955).
Athlete Olympic Results Content