Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima

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Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima
Medal record
Representing  Brazil
Men's athletics
Olympic Games
Bronze medal – third place 2004 Athens Marathon
Olympic rings with white rims.svg Pierre de Coubertin medal 2004
Pan American Games
Gold medal – first place 1999 Winnipeg Marathon
Gold medal – first place 2003 Santo Domingo Marathon

Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima (born 11 August 1969 in Cruzeiro do Oeste, Paraná, Brazil) is a former long-distance runner who specialised in marathons. He received international renown after a spectator, laicized Irish priest Neil Horan, attacked him at the 2004 Summer Olympics marathon while he was leading the race at 35 km. Following the incident he fell back from first to third place, winning the bronze medal. He was later awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship for that race.

The other highlights of his career were wins at the Tokyo International Marathon and Hamburg Marathon, becoming the regional cross country champion in 1995, and winning the marathon at the Pan American Games twice consecutively in 1999 and 2003.

Early life[edit]

At the age of eight, de Lima began working with his father as a peasant in farms near his hometown. According to de Lima, the money they made was barely enough to buy rice and beans. He repeatedly says that by struggling to overcome the hardships of his life he was preparing to be a good marathon athlete.[citation needed]

Professional career[edit]

He started out as a cross country runner, representing Brazil at the 1989 and 1992 IAAF World Cross Country Championships. It was at regional level that he won his first medals, scoring a bronze at the 1993 South American Cross Country Championships before going on to win the competition in 1995.[1]

He won his first marathon in 1996, taking the Tokyo International Marathon title. He attended his first Summer Olympics that same year, running in the marathon at the 1996 Atlanta Games and he finished in 47th place. His first world appearance followed a year later at the 1997 World Championships in Athletics and he improved to finish in 23rd place overall. He set a personal best at the 1998 Tokyo Marathon, completing the classic distance in 2:08:31, but he was the second to cross the finish line after Alberto Juzdado.[2]

Just as in the cross country competitions, it was in regional competitions that he won his first marathon medals. He was the Pan American champion twice consecutively, running 2:17:20 at the 1999 Games and 2:19:08 for the second victory at the 2003 Games. He began the 2004 season well with a quick win (2:09:39) at the Hamburg Marathon.

Attack at 2004 Summer Olympics[edit]

On 29 August 2004, at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, de Lima was attempting to become the first Brazilian to win an Olympic gold medal in the marathon. Soon after the 35 km (22 mi) mark, holding a lead of approximately 25–30 seconds, de Lima was halted and grappled by a spectator named Cornelius Horan, a defrocked Irish priest. Horan had previously disrupted the 2003 Formula One British Grand Prix by running onto the Silverstone track. Greek spectator Polyvios Kossivas helped free de Lima from Horan's grasp and back into his running.[3]

De Lima lost about 15–20 seconds in the incident, but could well have lost much more due to the disruption, and he was passed by Stefano Baldini (Italy) and Mebrahtom Keflezighi (United States) later at the 38 km (24 mi) mark. He finished third with a time of 2:12.11, winning the bronze medal. The Brazilian Athletics Confederation launched an appeal on behalf of de Lima with president Roberto Gesta de Melo claiming that "someone took him out of the race and we are asking for a gold medal for our athlete... solutions like that have been done in the past for other events." The appeal was rejected.[3]

At the closing of the event, the International Olympic Committee awarded de Lima the Pierre de Coubertin medal for the spirit of sportsmanship, which included a victory dance by de Lima in the last seconds of the race. The medal was officially presented to de Lima on 7 December in Rio de Janeiro, during a formal ceremony organized on a yearly basis by the Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) and known as "The Brazilian Olympic Prize." De Lima was also named Brazilian Athlete of the Year in 2004, receiving the trophy presented by the COB at the same time as the Pierre de Coubertin medal. De Lima's victory was the first occasion in which the winner was selected by online popular vote.[3]

On 1 July 2005, Brazilian beach volleyball player Emanuel Rego, who won the gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games, tried to give his gold medal to de Lima on television, which de Lima returned. "I can't accept Emanuel's medal. I'm happy with mine, it's bronze but means gold", said de Lima. His biography was written by Renata Adrião D'Angelo, Vanderlei de Lima - A Maratona de uma Vida, printed in Brazil by Casa da Palavra, in 2007.

Post-Olympic career[edit]

De Lima ran at the world championships for a second time, but he did not manage to finish in the 2005 World marathon race. He took part in the 2005 Saint Silvester Road Race that same year but only managed to finish in 14th place.

De Lima attempted to defend his title at the 2007 Pan American Games, but he dropped out with muscular problems at the 37-kilometer mark – compatriot Franck Caldeira de Almeida went on to win the race.[4] He retired as a marathoner after running the Paris Marathon on April 2009.[5]


External links[edit]

Preceded by
Fernando Meligeni
Brazilian Sportsmen of the Year
Succeeded by
João Derly