In 2006, a year after Samuel Oliveira was born, Daniel Dias competed in his first career Paralympic Swimming World Championship. In Durban (South Africa), Daniel won five medals, three of which were gold. He emerged, there, the biggest name in Brazilian parasports to date, with 28 podiums in Paralympics, 14 of them at the top. Seventeen years later, it is precisely Samuel – or Samuka, as he is called – who shows credentials to be the natural successor to the multi-champion of swimming pools, who retired after the Tokyo Games (Japan), in 2021.
The similarities are impressive. The two are in the same class, the S5, which is intermediate among the ten that are aimed at swimmers with physical-motor disabilities – the lower the number, the greater the degree of impairment. Precocity also draws attention. In 2022, aged 16, Samuel debuted at the World Championships and returned from the Olympic Swimming Pool Complex in Funchal (Portugal) with the same five medals that Daniel obtained in Durban, coincidentally, three golds and two silvers.
Samuka’s most recent feat (currently 17 years old and turning 18 in August) was to break the 100 meters (m) butterfly swimming record, during the Sheffield (United Kingdom) stage of the Paralympic swimming world circuit. Last Sunday’s time (19) was one second and 35 hundredths faster than the previous mark, as it lasted ten years. The former owner? Daniel Dias.
“It’s a great responsibility to be compared to him. He’s a great athlete and medalist. He’s very good, despite being so young. I’m sure I’ll continue the legacy he left,” said Samuel, who had his arms amputated at the age of nine. , after suffering an electrical discharge of 13,000 volts, when he was trying to catch a kite at the top of a tree using an iron bar.
Samuel de Oliveira beats Daniel Dias’ record in the England swimming World Series: https://t.co/e3B6YJEfpI pic.twitter.com/qLNj6FAPnv
— Brazilian Paralympic Committee (@cpboficial) March 19, 2023
It wasn’t the first time that Samuka took a brand from the multi-champion of the pools. In 2021, during the selection for the formation of the Brazilian team that would go to Tokyo, the young man took 33s57 in the 50 m butterfly, setting the new record of the Americas for the test and improving the time that the idol had recorded seven years earlier. The detail is that Daniel was also in the pool at the Paralympic Training Center, in São Paulo, which hosted that event.
“I was so happy, I couldn’t believe it at the time. It was a very good experience to swim alongside him. I’m still young, a teenager. If I manage to follow his path, I know I can go far”, commented the young man, who was 15 at the time. .
The brand, in theory, classified Samuel to represent Brazil in Tokyo. The problem is that he should also have participated in at least one of four specific tournaments during the cycle – which did not happen. The Brazilian Paralympic Committee (CPB) tried to make an exception for the swimmer possible with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), claiming the impact of the covid-19 pandemic, which made it difficult for athletes to attend events abroad, but did not there was a way.
Frustration with the postponed dream gave way to action. Samuka decided to move from São Paulo to Uberlândia (MG), joining the Praia Clube Paralympic team. One of the association’s partners is cousin Tiago Oliveira – who tried to help him take the kite out of the tree and was also hit by the electric shock, having to amputate his arms. The two even went to the podium together in the 200 m medley event at the Funchal World Cup (Samuel won silver and Tiago won bronze).
In addition to his cousin, Samuel swims with other experienced athletes in competitions for the Brazilian national team, such as Paralympic champions Talisson Glock and Gabriel Bandeira and Andrey Garbe, bronze at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016. right due to thrombosis and bacterial meningitis, Samuka started to record videos, published on social networks, treating the respective physical deficiencies in a humorous way.
“[Queremos] show people who have disabilities that we are not poor people. A way to have fun, distract, show what you’re capable of. It’s funny and gratifying to know that our videos reach so many places. Before I lost my arms, I didn’t know any other [pessoa com] deficiency. Wheelchair users only. So, it is important to show the public that we are not just disabled, to show our routine and how we deal with the disability”, highlighted the athlete, who learned to swim during rehabilitation, at the Association for Assistance to Disabled Children (AACD), in São Paulo .
The comparisons and expectations surrounding Samuel are also recognized – with due caution – by those who work directly with him. Case of coach Alexandre Vieira, who trains the swimmer at Praia Clube since the beginning of 2022 and has been part of the technical commission of the Brazilian national team for about 12 years, living with Daniel Dias himself during the period.
“We never told Samuel that he would replace Daniel. Especially because I find it difficult to have another Daniel, who was outside the curve. They are very similar in potential. I believe that Daniel’s maturity made all the difference and Samuka is getting better We work a lot on this side of knowing expectations, what is real, what is not, but mainly understanding that he needs to be Samuel, not another Daniel”, analyzed Alexandre, who performs, with the pupil, a work that takes into account the type of physical disability of the athlete. “In Uberlândia, we have 23 athletes [paralímpicos], so there are 23 different workouts. As he doesn’t have arms, Samuel needs to get good not only in his legs, but in his fundamentals. I think that was the fundamental point for him to have evolved the brands”, completed the coach.
This season, Samuel will be put to the test in two fundamental competitions: the Manchester World Cup (United Kingdom), from July 31st to August 6th; and the Parapan American Games in Santiago (Chile), between November 17th and 26th. In the first of them, he can even guarantee a place in the Paralympics in Paris (France), in 2024. The expectation, however, is that this year’s edition will be more competitive than that of Portugal, which was impacted by the absence, mainly, of Chinese swimmers, who have been dominating the Samuka category in recent events.
“Samuel is aware that, in the World Cup [de Portugal], the main competitors were not present. He follows up with our psychologist, who is preparing him for any result, whether positive or not so positive. The big X is neither [enfrentar] the Chinese, but to show Samuel that he needs to be better than himself. And the medals are a consequence”, projected Alexandre.
“It won’t be easy. We’re training strategies to win the races and break records. I’m sure it’s not the first time I’m going to surprise. I don’t know [os chineses] I personally watched some evidence. [No Mundial]they can look forward to a Samuel they’ve never seen, that’s for sure,” concluded Samuka.