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23 Jul 1952
Helsinki 1952

Da Silva's record-breaking streak to triple jump gold

Brazil’s Adhemar Ferreira da Silva was from a humble background. He was the son of a railroad worker and domestic servant and grew up in Sao Paulo. At the age of 19, he took up the triple jump and discovered, almost immediately, that he had spectacular natural gift.

Within a year, he had qualified for the 1948 Olympics, where he finished eighth. Two years later, he equalled the world record and then, in 1951, he broke it outright.

It meant that going into Helsinki 1952 da Silva was, unquestionably, the man to beat. The Brazilian wasted little time asserting his credentials as the strongest athlete in the field, breaking his own world record with his first jump. In fact, in the final, he went past that mark no less than four times in six jumps.

It was a quite astonishing display of consistency from da Silva, in which he didn’t produce a single foul, and in which even his shortest effort would still have been good enough for silver. The longest, at 16.22m, was a huge new world record and beat the rest of the field by 24cm.

Meanwhile, Asnoldo Devonish took the bronze to become the first Venezuelan to win an Olympic medal.

Da Silva went on to successfully defend his Olympic title four years later in Melbourne, and in doing so became the first South American athlete to win a gold medal at successive editions of the Games.


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