Rafaela Silva was born in Cidade de Deus, one of Rio de Janeiro’s sprawling favelas. If it weren’t for judo, Ms. Silva might never have left.
She found the sport through a program designed to keep low-income children off the streets. Judo took Ms. Silva to competitions around the world – from Bangkok to Paris to London.
And then it took her home, where Ms. Silva earned the first of Brazil’s seven gold medals at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. To a country of more than 200 million, she had become an inspiration.
Why We Wrote This
The Olympic Games display athletic prowess and the resiliency of the human spirit. There may be no Summer Games this year, but great Olympic moments are worth revisiting – especially those that broke physical, cultural, and racial barriers.
It’s stories like Ms. Silva’s that draw nearly 200 million people to watch the Olympics every four years, says David Wallechinsky, president of the International Society of Olympic Historians. Sports are about stories, he says, and there is no greater chapter than the Olympics.
Even for the smallest country, “it’s a chance to be part of the world,” says Mr. Wallechinsky.
Since the modern games began in 1896, athletes have used them to break barriers, sometimes doing what entire countries could not.
Despite the postponed 2020 Tokyo Games, the Olympic spirit continues, biding its time until athletes can safely assemble. Until then, Olympic fans can reflect back on those who came before.
This summer, the Monitor did just that. Here are some of our favorite Olympic moments.
Editor's note: A previous version of this video included two images that were not verified to be Wilma Rudolph as a child.