Brazil takes gold in women’s gymnastics in the 2022 Pan-American games
So, if you haven’t heard by now, there was recently an historic moment for Brazilian gymnastics. On Sunday, before about two thousand people in Carioca Arena 1, Brazil achieved its most impressive outcome as a team in artistic gymnastics.
The team’s performance shows that Brazil is carving out its own place in gymnastics, with the world seeing its potential thanks to Rebeca Andrade’s gold medal in last year’s Olympic Games. At the age of 23, Andrade has already racked up an impressive list of medals and championships. She won gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, as well as gold in the 2021 World Championships. In the all-around competition, she took the silver medal in the 2020 Olympic Games and was the champion of the 2021 Pan-American Games. In 2021 and 2022, she has now won a total of four gold medals in the aforementioned Pan-American Games.
Her teammate Flávia Saraiva is equally impressive. Including the 2022 Pan American Games, she has now claimed seven gold medals in her career. And with Andrade and Saraiva leading the way, it’s easy to see how expectations were running high for the Brazilians in year’s Pan Games. And they didn’t disappoint.
With an almost perfect presentation, for the first time, the team from Brazil overtook the United States and took the gold medal in the final of the Pan American Championship of artistic gymnastics in Rio de Janeiro. Flávia Saraiva, Rebeca Andrade, Júlia Soares, Carolyne Pedro and Lorrane Oliveira scored 162,999 points, against 161,000 posted by the American women.
For the competition, the Americans didn’t bring all of their best gymnasts to Rio, but presented a mix of their A team with their B team. Kayla Dicello, for example, was bronze in the overall individual of the last World Championship. Still, it is standard for the US to compete in events other than the World Championships and the Olympics with mixed teams or reserves and Brazil had never won.
Brazil and the United States had a direct duel, with the two teams competing on the same machines with each rotation. The first was the jump, where Olympic champion Rebeca Andrade made an excellent Yurchenko with a double pirouette earning a score of 14,500. Flavia Saraiva did the same jump earning 14,033 points. Carolyne Pedro did a Yurchenko with only one pirouette, receiving a 13,033. In total, Brazil achieved 41,566 against 41,033 earned by the Americans.
On the uneven bars, Brazil had a novelty, with the entry of Lorrane Oliveira on the team in place of Christal Bezerra, who scored 13,100 points. Flavia got 13,600 and Rebekah did a series that scored 14,433. The United States passed Brazil in the second round (42,234 against 41,133), with two scroes at 13.9 points and with Zoe Miller’s 14,467 that made the series the most difficult of the day (6.5 in terms of difficulty).
Spectacle on the beam and on the ground
Brazil had a great rotation on the beam, with all three of the country’s gymnasts acing their sets and totaling 41.467 points, compared to 38.400 for the U.S. Julia Soares achieved 13,467, Rebekah got 14,133 and Flavia received a score of 13,867 for her performances. The US had a fall with Kayla di Cello and went to the last round 2.4 points behind the Brazilian team.
On the ground, Brazil started with Carolyne Pedro, getting 12,333 and Julia Soares getting 12,867. To close the competition, Flávia Saraiva gave an excellent presentation to get 13,633, the games’ best solo series final score to guarantee the gold for the team.
Brazil finished the competition with a total of 162,999 points. The United States came in second with 161,000 with the bronze going to Canada with 155,534, surpassing Mexico, which came in fourth place, by six points.
This was the first time Brazil had managed to outperform the United States in a team final.
“This shows all our work, our trust in each other, in the coaching team. It is a very great achievement for us, for gymnastics, for young girls who are coming and those who have already gone,” commented Rebeca Andrade about the achievement. The focus of the Brazilians is now the World championships, which will take place in the United Kingdom. “Liverpool awaits us, because now we are even tougher,” Rebeca joked.
“We have been trying to strengthen the team to qualify as a full team for Paris, so this competition serves to help in the preparation. The Pan American Games exceeded our expectations and we achieved this great result for Brazil,” said coach Francisco Porath. The coach of the Brazilian team said that the initial goal of the team for this year is a place among the eight teams that compete in the final of the World Championships.
Now, as we’re dealing with the question of race in Brazil here, one other thing I noted in celebrating the Pan Am victory is that there wasn’t much fanfare in terms of the racial issue here. Only Brazil’s only magazine targeting the black population, Revista Raça, made much mention of the racial classification of the winning team. In contrast, when Rebeca Andrade won at the Olympics, we saw a heated debate online between black Brazilians who wanted Rebeca to be recognized as not only the first Brazilian woman to win a gold medal in gymnastics in the Olympics, they also wanted it to be known that she was also the first black Brazilian woman to do so.
Detractors argued that she was the first Brazilian woman, period, and that her race shouldn’t matter. Once again, another example of the struggle over Brazil being known as a racist country that maintains its black citizens in a situation of invisibility vs. a country that many would prefer to see promoted as a racial democracy. It’s intriguing that Revista Raça chose to promote the team as almost entirely black while not mentioning the topic in the article itself. Perhaps the magazine didn’t want to initiate another debate over who is or who isn’t black in Brazil. I mean, this year’s gold winning Pan Am Games gymnastics team once again brings to the fore the question of whether one is automatically black because they have African ancestry. Clearly, there are black women on this team, but just how many will depend on the eye of the beholder.
Racial issues aside, the performance confirms that Brazil, if complete and with its best gymnasts in shape, can fight for a team medal at the World Championships. Even without Jade Barbosa, who could get valuable points for Brazil in the parallels and in the jump, and without Rebeca on the ground, the team totaled 162,999 points, compared to 161,000 in the USA.
Currently, Olympic runner-up in the individual overall, Rebeca was the best in Brazil in all three events in which she performed, but spared herself on the ground. With her, Brazil gains another point and a half, at the least. Flávia Saraiva, Pan champion in the individual overall, competed in the four events, always well, almost at Friday’s level — she was two tenths worse. In the jump, Brazil still had Carolyne Pedro. In the asymmetric, Lorrane Oliveira. On the beam, Julia Soares. And on the ground, Carol and Julia performed.
Jade Barbosa is in the gym, but isn’t competing in the Pan games because she felt a little instability in her knee. As such, it was highly unlikely that she will compete in the World Championships, instead saving herself for next year’s tournament, when Brazil in theory will have greater chances of claiming an Olympic place. In 2022 there are only three vacancies.
How the Brazilian women will fare in future events remains to be seen, but for now, congratulations are in order. Yet even as I give the Brazilian women their verbal flowers, I still have to wonder ‘what if…’. What I mean by that is, when i was a hardcore sports fan, I always wondered those what ifs in sports history. I mean, everyone wonders if the 1994 and 95 Houston Rockets would have won their back to back NBA championships had Michael Jordan chosen not retire. Would Brazil had won the 1966 World Cup had Pelé not gotten injured? How would Brazil have fared in the 2014 World Cup had Neymar not been injured? Well, in that case, probably not much better. Remember that 7-1 thrashing at the hands of the Germans that had all of Brazil crying? Come on, you remember that.
There are probably thousands of these ‘what ifs’ that could be applied to sports history and in the back of my mind, this also applies to Brazil’s women’s gymnastics team beating the Americans in the Pan Am Games. As mentioned, the Americans weren’t represented by their A Team squad, so I can’t help but wonder, what would have happened if the gymnasts that didn’t participate would have done so? Let us also not forget, although Rebeca Andrade made her country proud at the Tokyo Olympics, you can’t help but wonder if she had won without the absence of the American, Simone Biles, who was the favorite to win in every category.
Of course, we’ll never know the answers to these questions, so, as the Michigan fight song goes, all hail goes to the victors, the Brazilian women’s gymnastics team. Parabéns.