Olympics: Da Silva's golden vault flies under radar

Sports Tuesday 16/August/2016 17:58 PM
By: Times News Service
Olympics: Da Silva's golden vault flies under radar

Rio de Janerio: Brazil is said to have only one-and-a-half sports, soccer and volleyball, and for some Rio residents not even a shock Olympic gold medal in athletics will break that stranglehold.
It was close to midnight on Monday when pole vaulter Thiago da Silva cleared 6.03 meters, an Olympic record, to upset world record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France and become the first Brazilian man to win an athletics gold medal for 32 years.
But the captivating battle between hot favourite and plucky home hope at the Olympic Stadium failed to register with some Rio residents, who were more concerned about a first round volleyball match between Brazil's men and France.
"Who?" said Joao Bina, 43, an industrial designer watching the volleyball on television at a Rio bar when asked about Da Silva.
Soccer is king in Brazil, despite a demoralising 7-1 loss to Germany on home turf for the five-times winners at the 2014 World Cup and the continued failure of the men to win Olympic gold.
Volleyball, which has provided nine medals and gold for the women at the last two Games, is the only other Olympic sport that gets top TV coverage in Brazil.
That meant Da Silva, like many of the Brazilian athletics team, came into South America's first Olympics under the radar.
"Nobody knew who he was," said Nalbert Bitencourt, a commentator for Brazil's SportTV and captain of the men's volleyball team who won gold at the 2004 Athens Games.
"When I saw that he was in the fight for the medal I had to ask, 'hey, what is his name?'. He surprised the whole nation."
American athletics great, Carl Lewis, hoped the shock gold, just Brazil's second at their home Games, could spark local interest in the sport.
"I've been talking to people, fans who live here and how hard it is for athletes," Lewis, winner of nine Olympic sprint and long jump gold medals, said on SportTV.
"My thought is that this is the beginning, this is the start of what could be a historic event for Brazilian sport."
Pedro Grether, a 37-year-old physical trainer also watching Brazil win the volleyball 3-1 at a Rio bar, was sceptical.
"We don't care much about anything but soccer and volleyball in Brazil, sometimes we follow basketball but we aren't too good anymore," he said.
"It's sad, but we don't invest in sport. Nobody knew him before and we'll probably forget him soon."