Rafaela Silva has made her country proud by winning the first gold medal of the Olympic games in judo. Overcoming poverty in Brazil’s most notorious favela, the “City of God” Silva took up the sport because she loved– and had to– fight.
According to a Sports Illustrated article chronicling her path to the Olympics, Silva “spent the first eight years of her life in the City of God, getting into fights with boys and getting expelled from school.”
Silva quickly found her love for judo and rose to fame until the 2012 London Olympics, where she was disqualified for an illegal hold during the preliminary round.
If that wasn’t enough of a disappointment, Silva came home to find her social media flooded with racial comments.
“I was very sad because I had lost the fight,” Silva told CBC. “So I walked to my room, I found all those insults on social media, they were criticizing me, calling me monkey, so I got really, really upset. I thought about leaving judo.”
Silva took a few months off, but when she came back, she threw herself back into training and became the 2013 world champion.
And now, she has claimed the gold medal as well, earning praise from people around the world, including Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff.
“It is a great joy to see that Brazil’s first gold medal was won by a black woman,” Rousseff tweeted. “Rafaela overcame difficulties in life and proved our people reach the top when they have opportunity.”
— Dilma Rousseff (@dilmabr) August 9, 2016