Rebecca Andrade, Flavia Saraiva and the Brazilian women’s gymnastics team was supposed to be the good story of this week’s world championships. Maybe they still are, but some of that promise has been replaced by pain in application.
Saraiva, whose Olympics in Tokyo were beset by ankle problems, suffered another ankle injury in Liverpool, England, on Sunday, getting help after vault. Qualifying finished with a watered uneven bars descent, then it was in a boot in the mixed medium zone, according to Olympics.com.
She was in medical care on Monday afternoon in Liverpool, according to the Brazilian gymnastics federation. Her status for Tuesday night’s team final (Peacock, 2:15 pm ET) is unknown, although she is listed to compete on all four apparatus.
Brazil qualified third in the team final behind the United States and Great Britain, silver and bronze medalists from the Tokyo Games. Scores are reset for the final. Russian gymnasts who took Olympic gold are banned from these worlds because of the war in Ukraine.
More than 300 teams of gymnasts have won Olympic medals or world championships throughout time. But in the nearly 120 years of global competitions, the United States is the only Western Hemisphere nation to make the men’s or women’s team podium.
Brazil’s women, who didn’t win an Olympic gymnastics medal anyway until last year and failed to qualify a full team for the Tokyo Games, can change that. They have been a revelation since the program’s nadir of missing the Olympic team event.
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In July, Brazil beat the US B team at the Pan American Championships in Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil’s roster was the same as its top five in the world this week. He leaned heavily on Andrade and Saraiva (for seven of his 12 routines in the final). The US team at the Pan Ams included one woman who went on to make its world championships team (Skye Blakely), but none of its main neighborhoods are in worlds (Shilese Jones, Jade Carey, Jordan Chile). Still, Brazil’s decisive victory (by 1.999 points) resonated.
“The Pan Am title validated their work,” he said Marcos Guerra, a producer for the Brazilian broadcaster Globo. “The girls saw that they had a real shot at winning a team medal [at worlds] for the first time.”
Andrade, the Olympic all-around silver medalist, and Saraiva, brash talents hardened by past injury struggles, were expected to carry the five-woman squad again in the team final on Tuesday.
During qualifying, four gymnasts from each team of five were selected for each of the four apparatuses, with the three best scores accounting for a total of 12. Andrade and Saraiva were used on each apparatus. All eight of their scores counted. Andrade is known for her individual Olympic success, and is favored to win Brazil’s first world title on Thursday.
If Andrade is the team Martathen Saraiva is Cristiane. If Saraiva’s scores were replaced by Brazil’s fourth on each apparatus, Brazil would not have qualified for the eight-team final.
Andrade and Saraiva, who were born four months apart in 1999, have trained together in Rio for much of the past decade, he said Gabriel GentileBrazilian sports journalist.
“We’ve been family since childhood,” Saraiva said this summer of not only Andrade, but a larger group of national team gymnasts, according to the International Gymnastics Federation, citing Olympics.com. “I live with them. I spend more time with them than with my own family.”
Andrade originally comes from outside Sao Paulo, where she and seven siblings were raised by their mother, a house cleaner, before she left home for gymnastics at the age of 8.
A junior Pan American champion at age 13, she was plagued by injuries. A big toe kept her out of the 2014 Youth Olympics. Three separate right ACL tears ruled her out of the world championships in 2015, 2017 and 2019. She still managed to compete at the 2016 Rio Games and became known as Rebeyoncé back home after performing to Beyoncé’s music on floor exercise.
Healthy in Tokyo, Andrade became the first Brazilian female gymnast to win an Olympic medal with her money behind her. Sunny Lee. It would have been gold if she hadn’t crashed twice in her floor closing routine. Three days later, Andrade won Brazil’s first Olympic gymnastics gold medal, doing so on vault.
“This medal is not just mine, it’s for everyone who knows my story, everything I’ve been through,” Andrade, who has four million followers between Instagram and TikTok, said in Tokyo .
Saraiva was listed at 4 feet, 5 inches when she made her Olympic debut in Rio at age 16 as a medal contender on the balance beam (she finished fifth). And Carioca, developed into one of Rio’s government-sponsored sports programs for low-income children.
“Flavinha,” or little Flavia, missed the 2017 World Championships after injuring her spine. She had individual finishes of fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth in the world between 2018 and 2019, setting her up for Brazil’s first women’s gymnastics medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
But an ankle injury while qualifying at the Olympics ruled her out of it all. Andrade’s money celebrated instead. He returned on the final day of competition and was seventh on beam, then had surgery later that month.
“We’re still fighting,” Saraiva posted in Portuguese on Instagram after an ankle injury last year.
NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.
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