To become Brazil’s first trampoline Olympian, Rafael Andrade took a break from his dentistry career. Bouncing up and down on a jumbo trampoline and doing flips and tricks while essentially wearing adult footie pajamas in a judgement-free zone is more fun than being a dentist (or being an anything else for that matter), but it had to be scary to take this leap to chase an Olympic dream.
The Goiânia native completed his dental studies in 2013, and based on his rigorous schedule up to that point, he knew he needed to choose between the two. “Between 2008 and 2013, I juggled training and studying. But when I finished my specialization in dentistry and saw that I had the chance to go to the Olympics, I decided to focus only on training,” Andrade told UOL Esporte. “I have my entire life to dedicate to the dental profession and open a clinic.”
It’s true. His window for trampolining is much smaller, and Andrade always knew he wouldn’t pursue a spot at the 2020 Olympics, so 2016 was it for him.
Fortunately for Andrade, his dedication paid off. He earned his place by performing well in two competitions, finishing as the top Brazilian scorer at the 2015 Trampoline World Championships. He ranked 36th overall, which entitled him to the automatic qualification spot handed to Brazil as the host nation. But that only guaranteed him a place in a pre-Olympic tournament in April. So he got back out there and did it once again, securing his spot in the competition. He’s a long shot for a medal because of his rank and the fact that Brazil’s not know for its trampolining prowess. This is the first time the country qualifies in the sport’s 16-year Olympic history. Nonetheless, he’ll be fun to watch and root for – unless you’re a frontrunner who wants to root for traditional trampolining powers China and Russia.
The Olympics aren’t Andrade’s first historical achievement. In 2011, he won Brazil’s first international medal in the sport with a silver medal in the 2011 Pan American Games.
According to Globo Esporte, Andrade first took up the trampoline at 9 years old. In the 21 years he’s dedicated to the sport, he’s found that the sport is virtually unknown in his native country. “When I tell people I practice trampolining, almost no one knows what it is,” he said. He now hopes to make trampoline happen in Brazil. Like “fetch.”
Initially, Andrade wanted to train in Germany, but his preferred gym had no space. So he turned to Great Britain’s, which gladly welcomed him. In 2013, he moved to Bournemouth to train full time. Other than his coaches, he can also thank his dad – who provided financial support to supplement the money he got from Confederação Brasileira de Ginástica for allowing him to spend his time training – for making it possible to not have to juggle work as well.
Unfortunately, trampolining at the Olympics is only an individual sport so we won’t get to see Andrade try his hand at synchronized trampolining, which is definitely a real thing.
Once he’s done bouncing, Andrade will return to dentistry to fulfill his dream of opening his own office.