From near death to five time Olympian for Rio-born Azevedo
American water polo player Tony Azevedo came back from the dead as a child before embarking on a journey from ball-boy to five-time Olympian.
"I tore my trachea during a fall and I died for a few minutes," the 34-year-old said of his near fatal accident at the age of four. The doctors revived me but they said I would never be able to do anything without being connected to a machine.
Against all odds, Rio 2016 marks the fifth Olympics for Azevedo. At the age of 14 he was a ball boy at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games water polo event, an experience that inspired him to launch his own Olympic career.
"I fought through the recovery process and never let it slow me down. I feel so lucky to be where I am and I hope my story and journey will inspire others,” Azevedo said.
He has already won an Olympic Games medal in water polo — silver at Beijing 2008. For the Rio-born player, the latest Games is going to be extra special 20 years after that first introduction to the sport.
"It's great being back in Rio as I have so many family members still here and they've all been calling me, saying they will be at the Games and coming to watch," said Azevedo.
His father Rick, who played for Brazil from 1973-81, will also take part as the coach of the China women's team.
"It's incredible having my father here at the same time and in the Village with me. It's amazing for me to be playing and him coaching in the city where we were both born. It's going to be very emotional for both of us.”
Azevedo’s late Rio-based grandfather was his biggest supporter. "He was a great man and lived right down by Copacabana beach," Azevedo said. "After the 1996 Games I said I wanted to be part of the Olympic team and my grandfather totally believed in me, so much so he started to call me 'Tony 2000’. It was really cute of him to name me that, especially when I made the Sydney team. He went around telling everyone how he always knew I would make it."