Black Brazilian Gymnast says career derailed by Racism

Assumpcao won gold, upsetting Brazil's leading gymnast at the time, veteran Diego Hypolito.

[Brazilian Gymnast Angelo Assumpcao]
Angelo Assumpcao: “Some people think racism doesn’t exist. I wonder where my career would be without it.”
Photo: Twitter

Black Brazilian gymnast Angelo Assumpcao still wonders how far he could have gone if not for the decision he says derailed his career: speaking out against the racism he was subjected to by his white teammates.

Could he have made the Olympics? Won a medal? At 24 years old, he may never get the chance to find out.

“Some people think racism doesn’t exist. I wonder where my career would be without it,” he told AFP in an interview.

Assumpcao’s career was as short as it was promising.

A muscular dynamo with an exuberant afro, he grew up on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s economic capital, where he developed a love for gymnastics that soon landed him at the revered Pinheiros Sporting Club.

Located in the upscale neighborhood from which it takes its name, Pinheiros is a veritable institution in Brazilian sport.

Founded in 1899 — just 10 years after Brazil became the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery — it has trained some of the country’s best athletes, including 12 Olympic medalists.

Assumpcao came of age in its elite training academy, a lone Black boy learning backflips and dismounts surrounded by white gymnasts.

– ‘New sensation’ –

He got his big break in 2015, when he took the place of injured teammate Arthur Nory on the vault at the Gymnastics World Cup stage event in his hometown, Sao Paulo.

Assumpcao won gold, upsetting Brazil’s leading gymnast at the time, veteran Diego Hypolito, who won bronze. Globo Sports, part of Brazil’s biggest media house, proclaimed Assumpcao “the new sensation” of Brazilian gymnastics.

Days later, though, his celebration was cut short.

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