Who is Rebeca Andrade? This Brazilian gymnast could challenge Simone Biles for gold in Paris

July 11, 2024
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Her ascent was hampered periodically by a series of injuries. Andrade suffered three ACL tears (2015, 2017, 2019) that kept her out of international competitions and threatened to end her career.

Brazil failed to qualify a full team for the Tokyo Olympics, but Andrade benefited from the postponement of the Games due to the Covid pandemic and healed from her third ACL operation in time to punch her ticket as an individual competitor.

When she landed in Japan, she seemed like an entirely new athlete, with an unexpected ace up her sleeve that could rival the very best.

In the podium training ahead of Olympic competition, Andrade shocked the gymnastics community by unveiling one of the hardest vaults in women’s gymnastics, the Cheng. Comprised of a round-off entry with a half-turn onto the vaulting table, followed by a twist and a half, the Cheng is performed by only a handful of gymnasts in the world, including Biles. The daring move helped Andrade clinch the Olympic gold medal on vault after Biles withdrew because of the “twisties.”

She had been training the upgrade in secret, aiming to surprise her competition, including Biles, with her high degree of difficulty.

With Biles out of the Tokyo all-around final, Andrade won the silver medal behind Suni Lee after she stepped out of bounds twice on the final event, eliminating her narrow lead.

In the qualification round, Biles beat Andrade by less than four-tenths, with Lee rounding out the top three.

Rebeca Andrade on the uneven bars and the balance beam.
Rebeca Andrade competes on the uneven bars and the balance beam at a competition in Santiago, Chile, in October. Cal Sport Media; AP

At the 2022 world championships in Liverpool, England, Andrade became the first South American world all-around champion, beating U.S. gymnast Shilese Jones.

When Biles returned to elite gymnastics last year, the matchup fans anticipated in Tokyo finally manifested.

Biles reclaimed her world titles in the all-around, the beam and the floor. She beat Andrade in the all-around by 1.633 points, a margin worth slightly more than a fall. Biles’ starting value was about 1.5 points higher than Andrade’s, so the difference in their final scores was due almost entirely to Biles’ advantage in terms of difficulty.

After Biles sat down on her eponymous Biles II vault in the event final, Andrade won the vault title. To challenge Biles for gold in Paris, Andrade will aim to increase her difficulty in the all-around and start within a one-fall margin of Biles.



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