Rafaela Silva comes from one of the most notorious favelas in Rio de Janeiro, the City of God. Years ago, to escape the violence and daily adversities of her community, she joined Laureus-supported project Instituto Reação, which uses judo to promote personal development and social inclusion among the young people who attend.
"I started judo because in my community children were selling guns, they would sit in the corners warning criminals when the police came into our community. My parents did not want a future like this for me so they gave me a different activity to get us off the streets” reflected Rafaela.
A few days ago, Rafaela clinched Brazil’s first gold medal of the Rio games in the 57kg judo division. The impossible dream had come true.
Rafaela is an inspiration to young people across the favelas of Brazil. She has shown them that no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, dreams can come true. “It is very important to me to help other kids become Rafaelas, not only as athletes but to help them rise up in their lives” added the new Olympic Champion.
Laureus Ambassador Flavio Canto, who won the Judo bronze medal in the Under 81 kg division at the 2004 Olympic Games, created Instituto Reação more than 15 years ago. “We are building black belts on and off the mat here, whether they are competing at the highest levels of the sport or just trying judo for the first time.”
The Institute now operates from grass roots to the high performance level at five locations in the country and works with more than a thousand children.
Sport is changing people’s lives and inspiring the next generation of sport stars through Instituto Reação and the other hundreds of Laureus-supported programmes around the world.
Like countless young people in Brazil, Rafaela Silva had nothing going for her and her future was uncertain. Her decision to join Instituto Reação changed her life and helped her reach the impossible dream. The golden dream which came true at her home Olympic Games.