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2011-05-17

César Cielo, the fastest swimmer of all times

First Brazilian swimmer to win the Olympic gold medal talks about the expectation for the Games of his country

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César Cielo, first Brazilian swimmer to win the Olympic gold (Photo: Photo: Getty Images/Ezra Shaw)

Friday, 15 August, 2008, 23:39 (UTC-3). César Cielo is the fourth on a line of eight athletes called by the sound system, and enters the competition area at Water Cube, stage of the Swimming competitions at the Beijing Olympic Games. Grey cap, transparent goggles, black skintight swimsuit, Cielo is presented to the public and crosses himself. He points to the sky, repeats the gesture and warms up the arms as the French front runner Alain Bernard, at the lane beside, receives the clamour of the public at the bleacher seats as his name is called. The whistle puts the athletes on the starting blocks, and the sound of “take your marks” doesn’t take long to be heard. Silence at the arena. Eight men touch their hands on the ground for the last time. One of them would become a myth over the next fifty metres.

Friday, 2 October, 2009, 13:50 (UTC-3). After emotive speeches and two disqualified cities, it is time to annunciate the host city of the 2016 Olympic Games. At the Bella Center auditorium , at Copenhagen, Dinmark, hundreds of authorities, world of sport celebrities and journalists wait for the final decision. Following the protocol, the President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, goes up the stage and listens to the Olympic Anthem. He receives, from the hands of a young athlete, the ring-illustrated envelope containing the result. “Tonight, I have the honour to announce that the Games of the XXXI Olympiad are awarded to the city of…”. Silence at the audience. In the blink of an eye, the lives of millions would gain new perspectives.

Neither the Olympic gold of Cielo – the first of the Brazilian swimming –, nor the victory of Rio de Janeiro – the first of the South America – were achieved in seconds. It took decades. Lives. Over 21.3s, 34 strokes and no sign of catching breath movement, the Brazilian carried with himself the effort of Tetsuo Okamoto (country’s first medalist, in 1952), Manuel dos Santos, Djan Madruga, Ricardo Prado, Gustavo Borges and Fernando Scherer to the highest place of the podium. And he cried as a child.

Twenty four years old, current world record holder of the 50m and 100m freestyle, champion of both events on the last world championship, in Rome 2009, Cielo says he doesn’t reached all of his goals. Competing at the Olympic Games in his home country, in five years, is a reason to dream. More and more. Just like the ones who dream about being Cielo one day.

Check out the interview with the fastest swimmer of all times, granted below the warming sun of a Saturday morning, at the poolside, in Rio de Janeiro:

Three years after winning the gold, what did it represent to the Brazilian Swimming?

It was a milestone. It was the first gold medal, and I really hope that it would have been the first of many, that it would have opened the way. Until you win the first, everything is harder. After that, it is like a warning: “Look how it is possible”. Confidence is crucial. The Brazilian Swimming has great values, and the results are there for everyone to see.

Do you notice a democratization of the sport? What is the impact on the countries that already have a tradition on the sport?

With globalisation, information exchange, access easy availability, everyone has opportunities and is looking for achieving a high level. China has organized a successful edition of the Games. We just had the World Cup in Africa. Everyone is looking for a space. Including Brazil. Organising both events in a row is one more step the country gives to become a world power too.

How do you think the victory of Rio to host the Olympic Games is seen out of Brazil?

A lot of people are excited and curious about it. It is big news for everyone. I think most of foreign people was happy with the victory of Rio.

How can the atmosphere of Rio contribute to the Olympic Movement?

People have a positive perception of Brazil as a place of receptive and joyful people. Brazilians have energy to do the good, they are warm. These aspects influence everything about the Games, mostly the athletes.

The Olympic Movement is not limited to the competition. It encompasses education and culture as fundamental milestones. How important was education to your career and your personal life?

The creation of a society involves education. I was lucky to have a family that has always given me support, that was always there for me and was interested in my life, in and out the sport, that has given me a structure. My family took care of my education. Education and school are very important aspects. That’s what supports a country, a society, that’s it. It is crucial.

Passion and transformation are the main pillars of Rio 2016. What it this transformation about?

Olympic Games are not just about a sporting event, about a lot of athletes coming together for a few days. The most important thing is the legacy. It is what leaves to the city and the country. Not just in terms of sport, stadiums, gymnasiums or infrastructure, but also in terms of encouragement and good expectations. An event as big as this one can bring different benefits. 

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