The world of artistic gymnastics has been dominated by Simone Biles, arguably the best gymnast of all-time, for over a decade. In the past few years, however, Brazilian Rebeca Andrade has emerged as not just a great gymnast, but the only gymnast capable of giving Biles a run for her money. But the journey for Andrade hasn’t been easy – or straightforward.
Rebeca Andrade was born to a single mother of eight, Rosa, in the Brazilian city of Guarulhos. Her mother cleaned houses in order to pay for her daughter’s gymnastics training, which she started at four years old. Andrade had to walk for hours to practice from the favela outside São Paulo where she lived until she turned 10 according to Olympics.com.
For Andrade, her humble beginning serves as inspiration – for herself, and hopefully for others. “I think it’s to be believed, to know that even with all the difficulties, you have the capacity to achieve whatever you want,” Andrade told Olympics.com as she discussed one of her floor routines, set to “Baile de Favela” by MC João. “To know that it is really difficult, but that if you want, if you have the will, if you want to make it happen, you can do it.”
Andrade has been making it happen for years, fighting against devastating injuries – including three ACL tears – to become the first Brazilian female gymnast to medal at the Olympics. She won gold in vault and silver in the All-Around in Tokyo, and has won a total of 9 World Championship Medals and 6 Pan American Championship medals. That includes a silver in the team competition, All-Around and floor events, as well as a gold in vault and a bronze in beam during the 2023 World Championship.
Simone Biles herself talked about the competition after the latest World Championship, telling Gymnastics Now that “I actually love competing with Rebeca, she does push me, she makes me want to stick all my landings,” and adding that “she’s a phenomenal gymnast so I hope she keeps going and hopefully we see more of her on the podium.”
Andrade has already achieved her number one goal looking forward to Paris 2024, which was to qualify with her team. In 2019, with Andrade in the stands, her teammates failed to qualify for the Olympics. In 2023, with Andrade anchoring the Brazilian team at Worlds, they won a silver medal – the first for a South American country – and are headed to Paris not just to make an appearance, but ready to truly compete.
Considering she’s the only gymnast in the past few years who has even come close to Simone Biles – and who actually beat Biles in the vault final at the 2023 Worlds, Andrade’s name is clearly one to watch going into the Paris 2024 Olympics.