Perhaps one of the most memorable images from the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games is of brothers Antonio and Fernando Leme celebrating after their boccia victory in the mixed pairs BC3 finals.
It was an emotional scene, with Fernando Leme – serving as Antonio’s assistant – embracing his brother and then dropping to the floor in celebration, and the Brazilian home crowd cheering in the background. This comes in at No. 33 in the International Paralympic Committee’s Top 50 Moments of 2016.
"He just said let's roll around on the floor," Fernando Leme said. "So we did."
Brazil had defeated No. 1 ranked South Korea, the overwhelming favourites in the event. South Korea breezed into the finals, with their biggest margin of victory being nine points. Comprised of Ho Won Jeong, Han Soo Kim and Jin Ye Choi; South Korea defeated Brazil in the preliminary rounds 4-1.
But when the two met again, it was a different story.
The crowed raised the roof throughout the game, and Brazil raced to an early 3-0 lead. South Korea pulled it back to 3-2 going into the last end and were given two penalty balls at the end of the game. They were unable to capitalise, dropping 5-2, and the crowd went wild.
The Brazil’s victory in the BC3 made up for the disappointment from Dirceu Pinto, who was going for a double again in the BC4, adding the mixed pairs and individual titles to those he won at London 2012 and Beijing 2008. But Pinto failed to make the singles final and alongside Eliseu Dos Santos lost to Slovakia’s Samuel Andrejcik and Michaela Bolcova in the mixed pairs gold medal match. For Slovakia, the accomplishment marked the nation’s first ever Paralympic gold – let alone medal – in the sport. A few days later, Andrejcik added the singles silver to Slovakia’s success.
As for Brazil, the achievement from Leme, Evelyn de Oliveira and Evani Soares marked the first time Brazil took Paralympic gold in the mixed pairs BC3 event, an unexpected result from the No. 4 ranked team.
“Winning a gold medal was a unique feeling,” said Soares. “I thought about every person with an impairment who was watching at home, thought about giving them hope of a different life. I really felt like I was hugged by the Brazilian crowd. They made the ground shake while we were playing, and it gave us a fantastic energy on the court.
“The crowd was essential because they sent us good energies through every single match. We were focused on winning so the noise did not harm us at all. … We just took advantage of the great atmosphere.”
To find out more about the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2016, visit the dedicated page on the IPC’s website: https://www.paralympic.org/top-50-moments-2016