Lighting the Olympic torch is a HUGE honor, however, not many people likely recognized the torch lighter at the 2016 opening ceremony. But while Vanderlei de Lima never actually won a gold medal of his own, he was undoubtedly the best person for the prestigious job. Find out why here!
Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, 46, is a Brazilian marathoner who was honored with the distinct job of lighting the Olympic cauldron on Aug. 5 to kick off the Rio Olympic games. But while Vanderlei is not a gold medalist, nor a legendary Brazilian champion, he was clearly the right man for the honor. No Cable TV? Relax! Click Here To Learn How To Watch The Olympics Online
But just who is Vanderlei? He’s a long distance runner who became famous after he was attacked by a protester — WHILE running his event — at the 2004 Summer Olympics. But what’s incredible about his story is that he was actually leading the race before the incident, but he recovered well and quickly continued on.
However, the setback wasn’t enough for him to win gold or even silver. But he did ultimately win the bronze medal and, most importantly, showed impeccable sportsmanship and character. Check out our five fast facts about Vanderlei below:
1. Vanderlei lost seven precious seconds after being attacked by the protestor in 2004.
Seven seconds may not seem like much, but when you’re running in the Olympics, they’re everything! In fact, those seven seconds were enough to knock Vanderlei out of first place and into third as he still had four miles left to run after the incident.
2. He crossed the finish line in an epic way.
Holding on for the bronze medal, Vanderlei memorably blew kisses in the final stretch of the race as he neared the finish line. He even broke into an airplane motion with his arms while deliberately swerving back and forth. Amazingly, he showed no disdain toward what had happened to him just 20 minutes earlier. WHAT a moment!
3. He was also awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal — an even bigger honor than winning gold.
Named after the founder of the modern Olympics, the Pierre de Coubertin medal is awarded to those who show “exceptional demonstration of fair play and Olympic values.” It’s one of the biggest honors an Olympian can receive and has been given on average less than once per Olympics since its creation in 1964.
4. Vanderlei is a rare first.
The athlete is the first person to complete this triple – Olympic medal, Pierre de Coubertin medal, and final torch bearer. Pretty impressive!
5. Brazil had other great athletes they could have chosen for Friday night’s honor.
In fact, Brazil had actually hoped to have soccer legend Pelé, 75, light the torch. But after hip replacement surgery he was not feeling well enough, and ended up pulling out on the day of the event. But in the end, we’re glad Vanderlei got to do it — we think he completely deserved the honor!
Tell us, HollywoodLifers — do you think the Olympic committee chose the right man for the torch lighting job? Sound off!