Rafaela Silva, a judo athlete who won Brazil's first gold medal at the Rio Olympics, has come out publicly as gay in an interview with Globo Sports.
Silva became a national hero Monday won she won the gold medal in the 57k (125 pounds) category. Media worldwide have written about her rise from Rio's notorious City of God slum and her fight against ugly racist comments in Brazil after she failed to medal in 2012.
But none mentioned that Silva is a lesbian with a partner of three years, Thamara Cezar, and that's because Silva did not want to talk about it. Outsports was told by two sources, including one Brazilian journalist yesterday, that Silva is gay and that her Instagram account is loaded with photos of her and Cezar together in obviously romantic poses, with messages that include copious amount of hearts and sayings such as "you do not exist without me."
The Brazilian journalist reached out to Cezar on our behalf yesterday to confirm that she and Silva were indeed in a relationship, and she declined, so we held off writing anything. Our standard has generally been that we needed an athlete to publicly declare they are gay, though the Instagram photos made it obvious. In this case, we held off so as to not compromise the journalist who was our go-between.
The Globo interview discusses how Cezar is Silva's press agent and social media manager and the love they have for their three dogs, what they call their "kids." Silva credits Cezar for being there for her as she trained and prepared for the Olympics.
"She was there every day and knew how I was feeling, when I was sick when I wasn't," Silva said. "Everything I needed, she was there to do it, so she is also very important in this victory."
Silva becomes one of a record 48 openly LGBTI athletes in Rio.