Vanderlei de Lima

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Vanderlei de Lima
Vanderlei at the Independence Day parade in 2004.
Personal information
Birth name Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima
Nationality Brazilian
Born (1969-07-04) 4 July 1969 (age 49)
Cruzeiro do Oeste, PR, Brazil
Sport Athletism
Event(s) Marathons

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, a former Irish priest Cornelius "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. Neil Horan, the priest who attacked de Lima, was defrocked by the Catholic Church the following year in January 2005.[1]

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.

He lit the Olympic cauldron and carried the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Professional career[edit]

De Lima 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.[2]

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 finishing 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.[3]

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 spectator Neil Horan, an Irish priest who was later defrocked. 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.[4]

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 Italian Stefano Baldini (2:10.55) and American Meb Keflezighi (2:11.29) 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.[4]

At the closing of the event, the International Olympic Committee awarded de Lima the Pierre de Coubertin medal for the spirit of sportsmanship. 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) during the Prêmio Brasil Olímpico ("Brazil 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 award was the first occasion in which the winner was selected by online popular vote.[4]

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 (A Marathon of Life), printed in Brazil by Casa da Palavra, in 2007.

Post-Olympic career[edit]

De Lima lighting the Olympic cauldron in 2016.

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.[5] He retired as a marathoner after running the Paris Marathon on April 2009.[6]

De Lima took part in the 2016 Summer Olympics torch relay in Brasília. He also received the honour of lighting the Olympic Flame at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, during the Opening Ceremonies as the final member of the torch relay.[7]


  1. ^ [1]. The Irish Times online 20 January 2005. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  2. ^ Continental Cross Country Championships and Cups. GBR Athletics. Retrieved on 2010-03-02.
  3. ^ World Marathon Rankings for 1998. Association of Road Racing Statisticians. Retrieved on 2010-03-03.
  4. ^ a b c Reuters. De Lima to get sportsmanship medal following marathon attack. Athens, Greece: Reuters. 30 August 2004.
  5. ^ Biscayart, Eduardo (2007-07-30). Brazilian de Almeida wins Marathon - Pan-Am Games, Final Day. IAAF. Retrieved on 2010-03-03.
  6. ^ Dono do recorde nacional da Maratona, Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima afirma: "Quero que o atletismo brasileiro cresça" (in Portuguese)
  7. ^ "Opening Ceremony". 2016 Summer Olympics. 5 August 2016. NBC. 

External links[edit]

| after = TBA 2020

Preceded by
Fernando Meligeni
Brazilian Sportsmen of the Year
Succeeded by
João Derly
Olympic Games
Preceded by
Irina Rodnina and Vladislav Tretiak
Final Olympic torchbearer
Rio de Janeiro 2016 along Jorge Gomes
Succeeded by
Yuna Kim
Preceded by
Callum Airlie, Jordan Duckitt, Desiree Henry, Katie Kirk, Cameron MacRitchie, Aidan Reynolds, and Adelle Tracey
Final Summer Olympic torchbearer
Rio de Janeiro 2016 along Jorge Gomes
Succeeded by
TBA 2020