Brazil's 'Little Fairy' skateboard star is an instant hit

·2-min read

Everything seems to work like magic for Rayssa Leal, the 13-year-old Olympic skateboarding silver medalist nicknamed "Fadinha" or "Little Fairy."

Leal was pipped to street skateboarding gold in Tokyo by fellow 13-year-old Momiji Nishiya of Japan but her silver was enough to turn the prodigious Brazilian talent into a national icon.

"I still can't believe it but it seems as though it was a big deal!" Leal, from the northeastern Maranhao state, told TV Globo.

"Knowing that many other people have been training hard to be here, not just for skateboarding, and to have managed to win a medal for Brazil, it's very gratifying.

"It's crazy. My mother and father supported me from the beginning. We took it on and we had the courage to be here."

Had she won gold, Leal would have become the youngest ever Olympic champion.

Leal became an internet hit in 2015, when just seven years old, performing a "heelflip" trick while dressed as Tinker Bell, the little fairy from the Peter Pan children's stories.

That video caught the attention of American Tony Hawk -- known as the "Birdman" and one of the most influential people of all time in skateboarding. He decided to sponsor Leal, whose progress skyrocketed.

In truth, the Olympic result was a disappointment for Brazil, who had hoped for a podium clean sweep with Pamela Rosa and Leticia Bufoni joining Leal in winning medals.

But Japanese teenager Funa Nekayama took the bronze medal, leaving Brazil with just the silver.

Despite the relative disappointment, social media in Brazil went into overdrive, in stark contrast to the apathy and even criticism that met Neymar and the football team during their run to the final of the Copa America earlier this month.

"How emotional, how beautiful, congratulations empress of Maranhao," popular Brazilian singer Xuxa wrote on Twitter.

"Congratulations 'Fadinha', your fairy dust made many Brazilians proud (we needed that) and you've rescued our flag!!!"

Xuxa went on to hit out at Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsoanro, who has come under fire for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has left more than half a million Brazilians dead.

Bolsonaro's supporters have waved the country's flag enthusiastically at rallies supporting him, in a way adopting it as their symbol.

"It doesn't belong to this denier government ... it's ours!!!" added Xuxa.

However, the leader's legislator son Eduardo Bolsonaro also took the opportunity to congratulate Leal.

"Brazilian skateboarding keeps making waves in this sport's first Olympic participation," he wrote.

"It's another example for those who believe sport is a way of life and source of national pride."

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