Adhemar had just discovered the hop, step and jump when he made Brazil's 1948 Olympic team. It was his first trip outside Brazil, or even S�o Paulo. In London he felt like a stranger. He was tongue-tied and lost, and he never even made the final round. In 11 years since, he's won them all, repeatedly—World University Games, South America Championship, Pan American Games and Olympics.
He tied the world record in 1950, broke it in 1951, broke it again, twice, in 1952, and broke it again in 1955. He won the hop, step and jump at the first Pan American Games ever held, at Buenos Aires in 1951, retained his title at Mexico City in 1955, and is odds-on to win it a third time next Wednesday at Chicago. He won at the Olympics at Helsinki in 1952, at the Olympics at Melbourne in 1956 and, despite the fact that a Russian, Oleg Fedoseyev, is the current world record holder (54 feet 9� inches), Da Silva will be a favorite at the Olympics at Rome in 1960.
In training Adhemar has never exceeded 50 feet 4 inches, but when the heat's on he excels. In 1956, when he left for the Melbourne Olympics, Adhemar had just gone through a rugged qualifying month, after two years of training, for a physical instructor's degree, with daily sessions in swimming, water polo, basketball, volleyball, soccer, obstacle course and other trials. "I was in fine shape physically," says Adhemar, "but technically, for the hop, step and jump, no. I hadn't done it even once for weeks."
Then, in Melbourne, his lean jaw blew up as big as a softball with a tooth infection. "It was misery," he says. "I was in bed for three days with no solid food, and got up groggy from antibiotic shots."
On the big day Adhemar got up early for a steak-and-egg breakfast at 6 a.m. "At track meets I always make friends with the cook," he says, "and that cook in Melbourne was a real mother to me. She got up early herself to fix breakfast for me ahead of the meal schedule." Afterward he took a hot bath and a cold shower, limbered up and played with the kids hanging around the Olympic Village. He lunched on another steak, with salad, at 11, then went to sleep for two hours ("while those poor Russians worried and fretted") and woke up feeling great. Just as he left for the stadium, he got a perfectly timed pep letter from wife Elza.
In the qualifying rounds 26 of the 32 entrants were eliminated. Iceland's surprising Vilhjulmur Einarsson set a new Olympic record, 53 feet 3� inches. Adhemar's best was 52 feet 7� inches. Vetold Kreer of the Soviet Union was three-quarters of an inch behind Da Silva. "They thought I was doing badly," Adhemar remembers, "but it wasn't important. I never start to worry until the finals."
That afternoon Adhemar won his second Olympic gold medal and broke Einarsson's new Olympic record with a last-ditch salto triplice of 53 feet 7? inches. Einarsson never matched his excellent qualifying mark, and Kreer, who had qualified at 52 feet 6� inches, turned in a miserable 50 feet 10� inches and fouled on his last two jumps. "Poor guy, he had orders to win," says Adhemar. "He just fell apart."
Adhemar is only fair in other events but takes a fling at them anyway in Brazilian track meets to win points for his club. At the hop, step and jump, nobody in 20 Latin American nations comes near him.
Now, as always, Adhemar must struggle to make ends meet. At technical school he concentrated on sculpture, of all things, but a job in a shop mass-producing statuary for gardens and cemeteries paid off in pennies. He tried office work and selling, and then got a S�o Paulo city-hall job. Ironically, during a municipal crackdown in 1953, he was fired because of repeated leaves for track meets—a bitter dose to swallow for his loyalty to the amateur code, to which he has been so dedicated that in 1953, when an ardent public raised enough money to buy Adhemar a gift home, he turned it down rather than be classified a professional. When his mother couldn't understand his gesture he explained that accepting the home would mean he could no longer compete in events such as the Olympics. His mother's thoughtful reply: "Then it would not be a happy home."