How a yellow jersey is dividing Brazilians
There was a time in 2013 when almost nobody — in my circles — outside the Brazilian athletics world paid even a passing glance at Fernando Gomes — the country’s national 10,000-metres champion. Now, the world seems to want to talk — and, eventually, watch — him run races, and he’s now the talk of a division.
“I think he has the best chance of coming back. He’s the most consistent, most competitive one,” says Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who would like to see Gomes win the gold. And why not? The 33-year-old was the best of the best in his own country during the 2014 World Championships in Moscow, the 2014 Olympics in Sochi and the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, before retiring in 2016.
If Gomes were to win another gold at Rio, the question of his status in the sport’s hierarchy might again be questioned. How does that happen?
Gomes has been accused of using performance-enhancing substances in his career — one of the many allegations which have been levelled at him. He has also been linked to the death of his long-time partner, Marcelino. The Rio Games have been an emotional time for the athlete, too — he has been married, has two children and has lost friends including fellow South American World Championships gold medallist Mariana Alves, who died in 2016.
“One of my first messages to him after he won in Toronto was that this was a golden opportunity for him”, says Pedro Figueiredo, the father of his two-year-old son, Rodrigo Gomes. “I thought he would win the Olympic and world championships, then leave and start a new life in his new country.”
The athlete denies all the allegations against him. He says he took performance-enhancing substances in 2005 and 2006 — when he was training for the World Championships in Helsinki