MonteCarloThe Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, also known as the Cidade Maravilhosa (wonderful city in Portuguese), is one of the most recognizable landmarks of South America. Famous for Carnival, its Beaches, the Corcovado, and Football, Rio next month will be at the epicentre of the athletics world, as the city stages for the IAAF/Caixa World Half Marathon Championships which takes place on Sunday 12 October 2008.
With a deep athletics tradition, Rio has hosted important athletics events such as the “Grande Prêmio Brasil de Atletismo” from 1996 to 2001, the 2007 Pan-American Games, the 2000 “Campeonato Iberoamericano”, three editions of the South American Championships, and several national championships and many other regional events. Yet, these World Half Marathon Championships represent a special occasion for a city that is hoping to organize the 2016 Olympic Games.
Rio’s main moments and heroes
Adhemar Ferreira da Silva, the biggest name of Brazilian and South American athletics, gave the city its only athletics World record. On 30 September 1951, at the track of “Fluminenense Futebol Clube”, the two-time Olympic Triple Jump champion (1952-56) leapt 16.01m, to improve the record he had set in São Paulo (16.00 on 3 December 1950) which he shared with Japan’s Naoto Tajima.
Although he was born in São Paulo, Adhemar competed – at some point of his career – representing a Carioca club: Vasco da Gama.
So, perhaps the most notable athlete actually produced by Rio would be sprinter Róbson Caetano da Silva, a 100/200 specialist.
Da Silva earned the 1988 Olympic Games 200m bronze, and was a member of the 4x100 team that also took the bronze at Atlanta ’96. Róbson, born in Rio on 4 September 1964, also won the World Cup at 200m on three consecutive occasions (1985-92), while he still holds the South American and national record of 100m (10.00 ‘88).
Luiz Antônio dos Santos, a Marathon bronze medallist at the 1995 World Championships which were held in Gothenburg, Sweden, is perhaps the most accomplished distance runner ever produced by the city or the state of Rio de Janeiro.
Luiz Antônio, born in Volta Redonda on 6 April 1964, recorded the biggest moment of his career when he pulled away in Gothenburg, around the 30Km mark from favorites such as Spain’s Martín Fiz or Mexican Dionicio Cerón, who later beat him at the final stages of the race. Yet, that medal is the only one obtained by a Brazilian athlete in a long distance event at any edition of the IAAF World Championship in Athletics.
Dos Santos ended his career with a 2:08:55 PB, won the classic Fukuoka Marathon in 1995, was fifth at the 1997 World Championships in Athens, and tenth at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
Luiz Antônio dos Santos ranks alongside the biggest names in distance running in Brazil, such as Ronaldo da Costa (born in Minas Gerais), and Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima (born in Paraná).
Ronaldo da Costa Da Costa is a former Marathon World Record holder (ran 2:06:05 in Berlin 1998 to break the 10 year-old mark of Belayneh Dinsamo), and bronze medallist at the 1994 World Half Marathon Championships, while Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima became famous when he finished in third place at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games after suffering an attack while he was leading the event.
Among other remarkable distance runners from the city or state of Rio de Janeiro are: Artur de Freitas Castro (eighth at the 1992 World Half Marathon Championships), Delmir Alves dos Santos (sixth and seventh, respectively, at the 1995 and 1996 World Half Marathon Championships), Eleonora Mendonça (a female pioneer who in 1978 set the South American record with 2:48:45 while placing fifth at the New York City Marathon), and Janeth Mayal (South American record holder with 2:31:27 in 1991, also third at the 1994 London Marathon).
Another current successful runner from Rio is Franck Caldeira de Almeida, an Olympian in Beijing 2008. Although Franck was born in the state of Minas Gerais, he currently lives in Petrópolis and is an adopted son of the state of Rio de Janeiro. In 2006 he won the year-ending São Silvestre road race in São Paulo, while he also took the victory at 2007 the Rio Half Marathon and the Pan-American Games Marathon.
Genesis of the Rio Half Marathon
The Rio Half Marathon (Meia Maratona) was started in 1997 (14 September), and its inaugural winners were Brazilian Tomix da Costa (1:04:04) and Italian Ornella Ferrara (1:14:53).
Since then, the race has had the same course, all the way along the beautiful ocean’s coast, from the area of São Conrado to Parque do Flamengo, passing through the famous beaches of Leblon, Ipanema, Copacabana and Botafogo.
The course records were set at the 2000 edition by Kenyans John Gwako (1:01:48) and Margaret Okayo (1:11:22). Okayo, a well decorated runner, has won 3 of the most classical marathon around the world, such as London, Boston and New York City.
Current Brazilian star lines-up to contest the World title
Marílson Gomes dos Santos, the current biggest name in Brazilian distance running, is set to participate in the IAAF/Caixa World Half Marathon Championships in Rio.
Gomes dos Santos, winner of the 2006 New York City Marathon, and South America’s Half Marathon record holder (59:33 while placing seventh at the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Udine), comes from a disappointing abandoned race at the 2008 Olympic Games of Beijing.
Eduardo Biscayart for the IAAF