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George De Carvalho
August 31, 1959
He sings, he studies, he's a two-time Olympic winner. He's a rare, fascinating man
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August 31, 1959

The Triple Jumper From Brazil

He sings, he studies, he's a two-time Olympic winner. He's a rare, fascinating man

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Adhemar's adherence to the classical interpretation of amateurism was recognized when the International Olympic Committee awarded him the Mohammed Taher Trophy, presented to the amateur athlete whose general merit or career justifies a special distinction. Fanny Blankers-Koen, Roger Bannister and John Landy have also received the trophy.

In 1956 Adhemar got his present jobs in Rio as an instructor at a labor recreation center and, on weekends, for a government-sponsored student recreation program. "I handle 900 teen-agers on Sunday," says Adhemar, "and I make them jump."

Both jobs pay a total of only 25,000 cruzeiros (about $165) monthly, though Adhemar earns extra income by writing sports stories for Rio's daily Ultima Hora. Last fall he earned no money but had his expenses paid when he played a key role in the movie Carnival Orpheus, produced by France's Marcel Camus. Last month, resplendent in a rented tuxedo, he was hailed, along with Camus and others in the cast, at a black-tie S�o Paulo premi�re.

Back in December 1953, Adhemar married his longtime sweetheart, Elza Santos, who was his neighbor and a childhood confidante. "We were in love, but we didn't know it until one day in 1951," says Elza. "I took him home to meet my parents. Mother fixed up the parlor real nice, but Adhemar went right to the kitchen, messed around with the pots and pans, had something to eat, and then began playing his guitar and singing. When he left, my folks all said, 'Elza, that's the man for you to marry.' "

They're still a honeymoon couple. Says Elza, "I'm so happy I'm almost afraid. He loves the children and the house and me, and I don't hope for anything more in life." They have two children, 4-year-old daughter Adyel and one-year-old Adhemar Ferreira da Silva Jr.

Miserably lonely during Adhemar's long trips abroad, Elza nevertheless insists that he stay in competitive sports at least until the 1960 Olympics. Adhemar is deeply grateful. "With a different wife I would have dropped out years ago," says he. "For a family with no money, international amateur athletics is too much of a sacrifice. Marriage is a lottery, but with Elza I won first prize."

As a star athlete, Adhemar has traveled all over Latin America, Europe and the United States. He has been to Iceland and Japan, Sweden and Spain, California and Moscow. "I've sure been places and seen things," says Adhemar. "I've seen the Louvre and the Empire State Building, Buckingham Palace and the Folies-Berg�re, the Kremlin and the Golden Gate. I've seen more old masters in European museums than I can remember, and I've been to Mme. Tussaud's waxworks museum in London five times. I've learned a little bit about the world and a lot about people."


For fun Adhemar has sung and played his guitar—especially, haunting Brazilian folk songs and steaming sambas—over radio stations and at nightclubs from Finland to Fresno. In Moscow, where he won the hop, step and jump in a 1957 international meet ("It was so cold I had to warm up for two hours"), he met Khrushchev at a Kremlin ball. " Moscow's a pretty sad place," says Adhemar, "but just once I promoted a real night out, with caviar and lots of vodka, and sambas, plus rock 'n' roll. I'm telling you, they were going crazy and screaming for more. That's what the Russians need, plain old fun."

Abroad, Adhemar misses his Brazilian dishes, but he gobbles up exotic new items like American hamburgers and sundaes ("I could live on them forever"). A natural linguist, he's picked up good English and French, plus fluent bits of Russian, Czech, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Icelandic.

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