Updated 4 March 2008
Keila da Silva COSTA, Brazil (Long and Triple Jump)
Born 6 February, 1983, Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil; 1.70m, 62kg
Lives in Sao Paulo
Coach: Nélio Alfano Moura
Club: Clube de Atletismo BM&F (BM&F Athletics Club)
Since she was a little girl, Keila da Silva Costa seemed to be one of the most talented athletes in South America. During those days, she achieved two South American Junior records which are still unbeaten. When she grew up, and started competing at senior level, she kept improving until she made the international elite group. Costa is now considered one of the main stars of the circuit in long jump and triple jump.
However, Costa’s most extraordinary victory was to reach that level, taking into account that she had trained for 12 years in pauper conditions. There were neither synthetic tracks nor the necessary elements for an athlete to develop in her town, Recife, in the north east corner of Brazil, far from the big cities. Also, Costa comes from a humble family, so she could not count on her parents’ support for travelling or competing.
Inspired by her older sister, Danielle, Costa took up athletics when she was 9 years old in the Projeto Atletas do Futuro (Development Programme) led by Roberto Ribeiro de Andrade. She spent her first 12 years as an athlete in Abreu e Lima, next to Recife, running on a clay track at a simple stadium which, without even a mat or hurdles, lacked any modern facilities.
Nevertheless, she went to the 2002 World Junior Championships, in Kingston, where she won the triple jump bronze medal with her sixth and last attempt. It was the first podium for Brazil in World Junior Championships history. Thanks to that performance, she became the most promising athlete in Brazil together with Jadel Gregorio. Later in 2002, she broke the South American junior long jump record (6.46), having done the same in triple jump the year before (14.00).
Media pressure had such a great effect on Costa that she could not train well enough to qualify for the 2003 Pan American Games, in Santo Domingo. Furthermore, she suffered an injury that forced her to stop competing for eight months. As the development programme she was part of ended, because of lack of funds, Costa had to move away and met a new coach, Pedro Henrique Toledo.
Once in Sao Paulo, Costa had the opportunity to train in better conditions, having great impact on her marks. Moreover, she managed to get the necessary standard to take part in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. But her first Olympic participation was not as successful as expected. Although her best mark at long jump was 6.61, she could manage only 6.33 in the qualifying round. But sharing a runway with the best athletes in the world was an unforgettable experience for her.
During 2005, and with Nélio Alfano Moura as her new coach, Costa did not improve her records much as she was out of most competitions because of another injury. But she returned in 2006. She felt excited not only about her own return, but also because Maurren Higa Maggi, a fellow Brazilian who used to be her idol, was back after a two-year doping sanction. As they compete in the same disciplines, they motivated themselves and helped each other to improve as they train at the BM&F Athletics Club.
Nowadays, Costa has another reason to train hard every day without suffering too much pain. In Athens 2004 she met the Panamanian, Irving Saladino, the reigning (2007) men’s long jump world champion. Saladino moved to Sao Paulo so as to train with the same coach as Costa, Nélio Alfano Moura.
Costa and Saladino have many things in common: they love athletics with passion, they compete in the same discipline, they were both born in 1983 and they share the same humble origins. As they had already begun to talk about a wedding, Costa travelled to Panama in 2006 to meet Saladino’s parents. But the 2008 Beijing Olympics are still their priority.
“I’m very happy with Irving and I’d like to marry him,” Costa said. “But now we want to grow up and improve as athletes, we’ll have enough time to organise everything.”
This calm attitude in life, and the hard work with a nutritionist and a psychologist, helped both to improve their PBs and started them dreaming of a great Olympic performance. During the South American Championships in 2007, Costa broke the South American triple jump record (14.57) which belonged to Maggi, barely three weeks after improving her PB to 6.88 in the long jump.
Costa showed a competitive spirit when she won two silver medals in Rio de Janeiro at the Pan American Games - the first in long jump behind Maggi, and the other in triple jump, behind Cuban Yargelis Savigne. With tears she declared: “You never have to feel defeated, even when things get complicated or you don’t count on the necessary resources as clothes and a good track”. Besides, as Saladino won the long jump in Rio, they became known as “The Golden Couple” in Brazil.
Fortunately, happiness would go with this couple. At the Osaka World Championships, Costa reached both long jump and triple jump finals. Although she couldn’t win any medal, she finished 7th in long jump (6.69) and 9th in triple jump (14.40). Meanwhile, Saladino was one of the stars of the championships, achieving the first Panamanian athletics world title.
“The lesson that I’ve learned from Osaka is that you don’t have to feel completed by just reaching the final, that you must go and fight for the medals until the last jump”, she explained. At the end of the season, Costa took part in the World Athletics Final, in Stuttgart, where she was 5th in long jump (6.46) and 6th in triple jump (14.13).
Costa dreams of reaching 15 metres in the triple jump – her favourite discipline -- and the 7-metre barrier in long jump this year. But she did not start the Olympic year too promisingly. She could not train as usual because of some physical pain and jumped 6.41m in the Valencia indoor meeting. Saladino has also had a slight injury on his ankle. In order to prevent aggravating the injury, he won’t take part in the World Indoor Championships.
Triple Jump: 14.57/15.10w (2007); 14.11i (2006)
Long Jump: 6.88, 6.60i (2007)
Triple Jump: 1998: 11.74/11.91w; 1999: 12.62; 2000: 13.23/13.65w; 2001: 14.00/14.15w; 2002: 13.78/13.80w; 2003: 13.68/13.69w; 2004: 13.80; 2005: 13.95; 2006: 14.17/14.11i; 2007: 14.57/15.10w.
Long Jump: 1999: 5.83; 2000: 6.05a; 2001: 6.20/6.24w; 2002: 6.46; 2003: 6.52; 2004: 6.61; 2005: 6.63; 2006: 6.59/6.34i; 2007: 6.88/6.60i; 2008: 6.41i.
2000 11th World Junior Championships (Santiago) 12.97
2001 1st South American Championships TJ
2002 3rd World Junior Championships (Kingston) 13.70
2003 1st South American Championships LJ
1st South American Championships TJ
2004 3rd Ibero-American Championships (Huelva) 13.80
q Olympic Games (Athens) 6.33
2006 q World Indoor Championships (Moscow) 14.11i
1st Ibero-American Championships (Ponce) 6.54
7th World Cup in Athletics (Athens) 6.33
2007 1st South American Championships (Sao Paulo) 14.57
2nd South American Championships (Sao Paulo) 6.83
2nd Pan American Games (Rio de Janeiro) 6.73
2nd Pan American Games (Rio de Janeiro) 14.38
7th World Championships (Osaka) 6.69
9th World Championships (Osaka) 14.40
5th World Athletics Final (Stuttgart) 6.46
6th World Athletics Final (Stuttgart) 14.13
Prepared by Víctor Pochat for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008.