The Brazilian Gymnastics Confederation has released an article about little Flávia Saraiva, who won the hearts of gym fans around the world with her performance at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China last week. Thanks to Manuela Ferraz Hirata, we have a translation of this piece in full and it’s not to be missed!
One of the big hopes from Brazilian artistic gymnastics has come through.
The young Flávia Saraiva shined during the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, and made a big splash in Brazil and even the rest of the world. With a silver medal in the all-around, another on balance beam, and a gold on floor, the four-foot-four 14-year-old showed what she’s all about. Flávia flies every time she’s on the floor. And more, she shines for her precision, focus, and above all, for her charisma.
Discovered by Georgette Vidor, the little gymnast began practicing gymnastics in a Rio de Janeiro social project when she was nine years old. [Editor’s note- a ‘social project’ is a place where kids that are part of a low-income community can practice sports for free, occupying them with constructive, healthy activities.] Like in everything she does, she took the sport very seriously from the beginning.
“Flávia always had a lot of energy and so a family member suggested gymnastics. Since she lived in the neighborhood of Paciência, in Rio, and we had a project in Campo Grande, her mother brought her to us. I was there that day. We tested her and I liked her a lot,” remembered the Brazilian Gymnastics Confederation’s (CBG) coordinator of women’s artistic gymnastics.
Right away, Georgette saw a great potential in Flávia and suggested that the girl practice four times a week, twice in Campo Grande and twice in another project.
“In the beginning, she was coached by Heine Milani and she quickly went to a competition where she didn’t do very well. She got mad and even said she wanted to quit. But I put her straight and said she had to have patience,” said Georgette. “She then began to develop her gymnastics very fast and we thought it was worth it to practice even more. Every Friday, Heine would take her to a gym (Academia Bodytech), where there was a group coached by Altair Prado and his assistant Renan Coelho. I followed her as often as I could and she kept getting better.”
The coordinator, who has discovered many other gymnasts, says that Flávia’s best traits are her perseverance and her charisma, and said she charms everyone around her.
“Flavinha [little Flávia] captivated the whole gym from the beginning. She’s always very sympathetic and has a true interest in the people around her,” said Georgette, who has many stories to prove it. “She reminds me of Daiane [dos Santos], who was an explosion of charisma. That’s a gift.”
From day one, Flávia was obstinate and perseverant. “In the beginning, she made nothing from practicing and competing. Her family had to give up a lot so she could do gymnastics. In 2012, we got a sponsorship from SESI to set up a promising group in Três Rios. I invited Flávia to be a part of this group, Qualivida, but said she would have to live in Três Rio to practice twice a day. Her mother wasn’t sure about her going, but she said she wanted to go no matter what,” remembered Georgette when she talked about the strong-willed girl.
That’s when Flávia started being coached by Alexandre Cunha, who still is with her today. To Vidor, that was essential for her growth.
“Alexandre brought over some girls from Mato Grosso do Sul [a state in midwestern Brazil] and we began setting up our group. In that year, Flávia made a leap in her gymnastics and started winning competitions on beam. She also began to set herself apart on floor. She was always graceful, has a beautiful toe point and that helps. Last year Alexander Alexandrov and Margarita Vatkina came on board and that has also helped her.”
Georgette believes she can be a key player in the Olympics in Rio.
“She has two very important traits – she does pretty gymnastics and is very focused for her age. She wants to be the best and has a coach who is also very focused on their goals. On top of that, Alexandre Cunha is exclusively dedicated to her. She is very easy to coach, has everything to be one of the top girls in 2016, and could maybe even make a final and compete for a medal. If she keepds this same mentality as she grows up, she can get a medal for Brazil.”
CBG also believes in Flávia’s potential. “We are very happy with how Flávia did at the YOG. She had been showing her potential already, proved by how she did at the Brazilian Nationals,” remembers CBG president Luciene Resende. “Our national team is going through a renewal phase and talented girls like Flávia are our hope for a victorious future.”
A Little Bit of History
Here’s a bit of info on Georgette Vidor’s past, for those who are interested in a bit of Brazil’s gymnastics history.
Vidor was Daniele Hypólito’s coach when Daniele first came onto the scene as Brazil’s best gymnast. I would imagine that the rest of the gymternet would remember Daiane dos Santos as Brazil’s first big gymnast, but Daniele actually came before her.
Daniele was the first gymnast in Brazil to get a contract to represent a club (she got a salary and they moved her, her mother, and her two brothers to Rio, paying for their apartment and school for all three kids) and Georgette became her coach.
This was back in 1994! And in the 2001 World Championships, she got a silver on floor, Brazil’s first medal in a World Championship event. But before that, in 1997, her club was traveling from a competition and their bus got in an accident that killed seven people. Georgette became paralyzed but kept on coaching until 2004. She is now the coordinator of Qualivida and of CBG’s women’s artistic gymnastics program.
Translation by Manuela Ferraz Hirata
Original and photo thanks to the Brazilian Gymnastics Confederation