For the first time, Brazil has an Olympic medalist in the 400 meter dash with barrier. And he’s only 21 years old. Alison dos Santos, known as “Piu”, came in third place in the race held at dawn this Tuesday and won the bronze medal, the 11th in the country in Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The Brazilian completed the race in 46.72 seconds, a new South American record. The gold medal went to the Norwegian athlete Karsten Warholm, who had a time of 45.94 seconds, a new world record. Silver finished with the North American Rai Benjamin, who finished the race in 46s17. “I’m not here just for myself, I run for other people too,” Alison said in an interview after the race, citing her coach and family. “I don’t represent Alison, I represent a nation. This medal is not just mine, it is ours, it belongs to Brazil”, he concluded.
Alison had already made it clear in the semifinal that she would compete for the unprecedented podium in the competition. He had the second best time in the qualifying, 47s31, which had also been his personal best and the South American record. That’s counting that he slowed down in the semifinals to save himself. His time was behind the Norwegian and world champion Warholm —who took the gold this morning—, but ahead of the American Benjamin —who ended up with the silver. Piu already knew that they would be his two biggest opponents. “Of course Benjamin and Warholm are gold favorites. But there are eight chances in the final. Everyone fights for three medals. Can’t tell who’s taking it. I hope I’m one of them,” he predicted.
The podium represents the arrival of fame for a shy boy. When she was 10 months old, Alison had an accident with a hot oil pan and had severe head burns. He spent his one-year anniversary in the Hospital do Câncer in Barretos. The injuries caused scars on the head, chest and left arm, as well as a hair loss. Therefore, he adopted the cap as an essential accessory while growing up in São Joaquim da Barra, in the interior of São Paulo. The nickname he earned as a tribute to an older colleague from the same town.
Alison started as a judoka in childhood, but soon attracted attention for his physical size — 1.85m at 14 years of age, 2.00m at 21. He was invited to athletics by teachers from a social project at the Instituto Edson Luciano Ribeiro visiting to city schools. Edson Luciano is a Brazilian sprinter with a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in the 4×100 meter relay. At the first opportunity, he refused due to shyness. It took a few months to accept the invitation, and still with some caution. In his first competition, at the São Paulo Olympic Center, he ran with a yellow cap borrowed from a friend. And never stopped running.
The results came in a sprint during 2019. Always in the 400-meter dash with barrier, Alison won the gold medal at the Universiadas de Napoli and the Pan de Lima. An expressive result soon came at the Universiada de Napoli, in 2019, with the gold medal in the 400 meters with barrier. Piu was Pan-American champion in the same year, in the same race, in Lima. He still went to the World Cup final in Doha with the second best time, but ended up seventh with 48s28. Two years later, it dropped to 47s31 in a semifinal of the Olympics, and XXsXX to the podium at the end. Expressive marks of a young man who has everything to consolidate himself as one of the biggest names in Brazilian athletics.
Piu was the first Brazilian to medal in this Olympic event. Before him, only Eronildes de Araújo and Everson Teixeira had disputed the decision. Eronildes was eighth at Atlanta 1996 and fifth at Sydney 2000, Everson was seventh at 96. Alison has gone beyond, and is only 21 years old.
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