Olympics 2008 News
Gold and tears in Cesar Cielo's seventh heaven
By Sebastian Fest Aug 16, 2008, 11:52 GMT
Beijing - Cesar Cielo Filho was shaking, and he could not stop crying. He cried on Saturday like no one had cried before in the swimming events at the Beijing Olympics.
He had good reason: Cielo had just celebrated one of the most glorious moments in the history of Brazilian sport by giving the South American country its first ever Olympic gold in swimming.
'Thre are no limits in the 50m, everything is a complete surprise, there is no way to predict what might happen. And today was my day, I won a medal of which I had dreamt for a long time,' said the swimmer.
The angel-faced Cielo, 21, had already been the fastest in qualifying. On Saturday he broke his own Olympic record with 21.30 seconds, beating Frenchmen Amaury Leveaux (21.45) and Alain Bernard (21.49). The Australian Eamon Sullivan, world record holder in the event, was sixth on 21.65 seconds.
Cielo's start - between seven and eight hundredths of a second fastest than his rivals' - explained at least part of his victory.
The rest was summed up by one of the historic figures in the 50m freestyle, Alexander Popov.
'Cesar is very good. He has two balls, two arms and a strong head,' the Russian told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
Cielo's win generated a small quake. Romulo Noronha, the head of Brazil's swimming team, screamed and did not stop to catch his breath.
Saturday's gold added to the bronze he achieved Thursday in the 100m freestyle. After the victory, he received congratulations from his rivals and started to shake.
A minute later, however, the buzz was over and Cielo was alone, crying like a boy.
It was the start of one of the most tearful celebrations in the history of the sport. The swimmer crumbled when he heard the Brazilian national anthem and the applause. He was crying harder and harder, as Leveaux and Bernard held him.
Cielo started walking around the pool, and his tears became more abundant. Moreover, they caught on, and his mother, his girlfriend and his friends were soon crying, too.
The swimmer was still crying when he met reporters.
'I am overwhelmed by emotion,' he admitted. 'I want to thank God. I worked very hard, I suffered a lot.'
The Brazilian's Olympic win was somewhat surprising - not because he is not talented enough, but because he got to the top very fast. These are his first Olympics, and in the Melbourne 2007 World Championships he only managed sixth in the 50m freestyle and fourth in the 100m freestyle.
In 2007, when he was carrying medals by the handful in the Pan- American Games in Rio de Janeiro, it would have sounded far-fetched to think of an Olympic win, even if the Globo television network had named him Brazilian swimmer of the year 2006.
Standing 1.95 metres tall with barely a gram of fat on his body, Cielo left his family to study International Business at Auburn University in the US state of Alabama, where Australian coach Brett Hawke polished his technique. He holds NCAA records in the 50m and 100m freestyle.
However, that belongs to the past, because Cielo (whose name means heaven) is now an Olympic champion.