In a geopolitical Olympic Games, without nations like the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, but with their heirs debuting (or returning) to the Games, besides the return of South Africa after the official end of Apartheid, Brazil also made history. With an even larger delegation than in Seoul and a record for Brazilian women came (finally) the first gold medal in team sports.
And who, at the time, thought it would be in football, was very mistaken – in fact, he didn’t even qualify for Barcelona in a shameful performance in the Pre-Olympic. It would be men’s volleyball that would bring an unprecedented gold, which with a young team, would raise volleyball once and for all as the second sport in the heart of the Brazilian.
It was an irreproachable campaign of the team led by the then young coach José Roberto Guimarães, with only three sets lost in the entire competition and entitled to unavoidable victories against our ‘executioner’ United States in the semifinal and against the strong selection of Holland in the final, a resounding 3 sets to 0. Names like Maurício, Tande, Carlão, Paulão, Marcelo Negrão and Giovane quickly became national idols, providing a true volleyball fever in the country. And since then, Brazilian volleyball has always been on the Olympic podium, sometimes for men, now for women, now for both, in all subsequent editions of the Olympic Games.
The other gold in Brazil was one of the most unexpected of the Games, with judoka Rogério Sampaio, just before the Olympics, having a memorable performance during the lightweight competition. Rogério beat current world champion Udo Quellmalz (GER) in the semifinals and had a dramatic victory in the final against European champion Josef Csak (HUN), guaranteeing his gold medal, the only Brazilian judo medal in the Games, since Aurélio Miguel, Brazilian flag bearer in Barcelona, was in ninth place.This Olympic medal, the only one in the career of the current director of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, had a special flavor, since a year earlier Rogério had tragically lost his older brother and great supporter, the also judoka Ricardo Sampaio, who was at the Games Seoul in 1988.
In the third Brazilian medal in Barcelona, we would be introduced to another swimming idol. At just 19 years old at the time, Gustavo Borges achieved a dramatic silver in the 100m freestyle. Dramatic because initially, Borges, who was in a close contest with Alexander Popov (RUS) and Stephan Caron (FRA) did not even appear on the final score after the edge hit, much to everyone’s surprise, including Gustavo, who was heartbroken to see your name last.After a strong complaint from the CBDA (Brazilian Confederation of Water Sports) he appeared in fifth place. President Coaracy Nunes continued to complain and the inspectors reviewed the videotape of the event and concluded that they analyzed the wrong streak – that of Matt Biondi (USA), who was even the fifth, and in fact Gustavo was second with the time of 49s43. Silver medal for the Brazilian, who lived moments of despair until the medal was confirmed and ended up going barefoot to the podium. FINA inspectors later found out that their time was not automatically scheduled because the touchpad Gustavo’s streak failed and missed Gustavo’s hand. Thankfully at the time I already had the videotape to fix …
On the beam!
In athletics we had three hits on the crossbar: The first was with Róbson Caetano in the 200m, a fourth place that was very frustrating even for him, since Róbson was “flying” in the race and was well rated to repeat the bronze from Seoul. However, it ended up at 0s7 of yet another Olympic medal.
Without Joaquim Cruz, injured, Zequinha Barbosa had the mission of leading Brazil in the 800m and was well rated due to the silver medal won in the 1991 World Cup, but he was unable to get close to the first three, also getting fourth.
The last fourth place was in the men’s 4x400m relay, but this medal was more unlikely and the result ended up being very positive, with the South American record broken with the time 3m01s61 by the quartet formed by Robson Caetano, Edielson Tenório, Sérgio Menezes and Sidnei de Souza. Brazilian athletics, unfortunately, came out without medals from an edition of the Olympic Games, which has not happened since Tokyo 1964.
Women’s volleyball showed its evolution and the generation of Ana Moser, Fernanda Venturini, Márcia Fu and company came in fourth place, after losing a game that many considered a win against the Unified Team – a team that represented the former Soviets and future Russians – and shaken by the defeat in the semi, failed to react and lost the bronze to the United States.
Men’s basketball repeated Seoul’s fifth place in Barcelona. In addition, the Oscar and Marcel team faced the Dream Team of Michael Jordan, ‘Magic’ Johnson and Larry Bird in the first phase, being defeated by 127 to 83 – the team that scored the most points in the Americans – and the one that scored the most took points from them. This was Marcel’s last Olympic participation.
Women’s basketball made its Olympic Games debut. ‘Magic’ Paula, Hortência, Janeth and company finally competed in their first Olympics, after the historic Pan American title in Havana, in 1991, ranking seventh among eight teams, with two wins in five matches.
Brazil also debuted in slalom and speed kayaking in Barcelona. Leonardo Selbach (C1) was the best placed, with a twenty-sixth place. Marlon Grings and Gustavo Selbach were in thirty-first and thirty-first, respectively, in K1. In speed kayaking, Sebástian Cuattrin – then 19 years old – (K1), Álvaro Koslowski and Jefferson Lacerda (K2) fell in the first round and did not advance in the repechage.
In handball, the men’s team also made its debut in the Olympic Games, but inexperienced in large tournaments, finished in last place, losing all its matches.
Cláudia Carceroni was the first Brazilian cyclist to compete in an Olympics. She finished forty-eighth in the road race.
In the official debut of women’s judo, Patrícia Belivacqua (medium-light) and Edilene Andrade (heavy) were the best placed, ranking ninth in their categories.
In Barcelona, we also had the first representatives of the country in table tennis, with Lyana Kosaka and Mônica Doti, who in singles and doubles competitions were in the first phase.Cristina Fortes and George Rebello were the representatives of RS: X – the popular windsurfing -, ranking seventeenth and nineteenth respectively.
In Barcelona we had a rare performance below the expected of sailing, with the best result being the eighth place of Lars Grael and Clínio Freitas in the tornado class. At least, a duo that would give Brazil a lot of joy would debut in Barcelona: Torben Grael and Marcelo Ferreira, who are still working together, finished eleventh at Star.
Father person and Child person
In this edition, we would see the debut of rider Rodrigo Pessoa at the Olympic Games. He competed alongside his father on the jumping team, finishing in a good tenth position. In the individual, Pessoa was in ninth place mounting the Special Envoy.
An interesting detail is that Rodrigo was the youngest Brazilian athlete in Barcelona – 19 years old – and Nélson the oldest, with 56 years and 233 days. Nelson would still become the oldest Brazilian athlete to compete in an Olympics, a feat that remains with him until the moment this text was made.
An interesting detail was that roller hockey was one of the exhibition sports in Barcelona and the Brazilian team that went to the games ended in an honorable fifth place. Too bad the sport never again became part of the Olympic program, nor as an exhibition.
The Brazilian tennis player would have great performance in Barcelona, winning number 2 in the world at the time Michael Chang (USA) in the second round and falling in the quarterfinals to Andrey Cherkasov. Oncins would also be one of the protagonists that led Brazil to an unprecedented Davis Cup semifinal in the same year as the Olympic Games.
With two gold medals and a silver medal, Brazil finished in the twenty-fifth place among the sixty-six nations that won medals in Barcelona.