ADHEMAR DA SILVA SETS TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE IN TRIPLE JUMP AT PAN AMERICAN GAMES
The Brazilian legend Adhemar Ferreira da Silva raised the bar — or extended the tape measure — for triple jumpers across the world in the 1950s. The two-time Olympic champion constantly re-defined the standard for greatness in the athletics event and shined brightest at the first three editions of the Pan American Games.
At just 23-years-old, Adhemar Ferreira da Silva was already sending shockwaves through the world of athletics. After finishing eighth in his Olympic debut at London 1948, Silva equaled the 14-year-old world record in the triple jump in 1950 by jumping an incredible 16 meters. But that was just the start of his greatness.
He competed for Brazil at the inaugural Pan American Games held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1951 in both the men’s long jump and triple jump events. Although he missed the podium with a fourth place finish in the long jump, he saved his best for the triple jump competition, jumping 15.19m to earn his first gold at the continental Games. It would not be his last.
Silva improved his world-leading distance to 16.01m at a Brazilian athletics event later in 1951 before setting his sights on his first Olympic crown. He did not disappoint in Helsinki, not only claiming the Olympic throne in the event but setting two world-records in the process, first jumping 16.12m and then adding a remarkable jump of 16.22m in the final to win the gold.
One year later, Leonid Shcherbakov of the former Soviet Union narrowly topped Adhemar’s mark by sailing 16.23m, a distance Silva was eager to surpass to reclaim his title as the world’s best triple jumper.
Silva welcomed the challenge and pounced on the opportunity to reclaim the record at the second Pan American Games held in Mexico City in 1955. During the athletics events held from March 13-19, Adhemar shocked the world once again by flying an unprecedented 16.56m to win his second consecutive continental gold and claim the world record for the fourth time in his career.
He then went on to successfully defend his Olympic title at the Melbourne 1956 Summer Games, setting a new Olympic record of 16.35m. Adhemar continued his outstanding performances with his third consecutive gold at the Pan American Games of Chicago 1959. His legendary career finally concluded with his fourth Olympic appearance at Rome 1960, although this time he left without a medal.
His incredible performances in athletics at the Pan American Games inspired generations of future leapers to follow in his footsteps. His world and Pan Am Games record of 16.56m set in 1955 would stand as the top continental mark for 16 years until a new challenger entered the arena.
At the Cali 1971 Pan Am Games held in Colombia, Pedro Perez of Cuba soared to a new world-record of 17.40m, topping Silva’s longstanding Games record in the process. Four years later, João Carlos de Oliveira reclaimed the record for Brazil with a new world-record jump of 17.89m during the Mexico City 1975 Pan Am Games, a record he would hold for nearly 10 years. The legacies of Silva, Perez and Oliveira live on in the history of the Pan American Games and to this day continue to inspire the athletes who compete in the triple jump.
Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela is the new worldwide standard-bearer for women’s triple jump and could seek to improve on her own world record of 15.74m at the upcoming Santiago 2023 Pan American Games. If successful, Rojas would be the fourth athlete in history to set the world record in the athletics event at the Pan American Games.
The defending champion from Lima 2019 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion is ready for the challenge and eager for the opportunity to add to the rich history of the triple jump at the Pan American Games.