Brazilian gymnast Rebeca Andrade makes successful return to competition

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 11: Rebeca Andrade of Brazil competes on the uneven bars during the Women's Individual All Around Final on Day 6 of the 2016 Rio Olympics at Rio Olympic Arena on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 11: Rebeca Andrade of Brazil competes on the uneven bars during the Women's Individual All Around Final on Day 6 of the 2016 Rio Olympics at Rio Olympic Arena on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

It was the first competition in nine months for the 2016 Olympian.

Brazilian gymnast Rebeca Andrade is no stranger to adversity.

The 20-year old, who competed at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, returned to competition after nearly nine months away on Thursday and Friday at the International Gymnastics Federation’s Baku World Cup.

She finished third on the uneven bars (14.233) and second on the balance beam (13.800), advancing to the finals in each.

It was a triumphant return for the Brazilian Olympian who tore her ACL for the third time at her country’s national championships last June. Triumphant until competition in the finals was cancelled, that is.

Rio 2016

Luckily for Andrade, she’s not one for giving up.

“I've overcome a lot of things and each time I overcame something tough, I was more determined to come back, I wanted to win even more,” Andrade told Olympic Channel in October during the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. “And I believe it won't be different.”

A rising star, Andrade sparkled at her home games in Rio with a Beyoncé themed floor exercise routine that captivated the audience nearly three years before University of California at Los Angeles gymnast Nia Dennis would.

She entered the 2019 season looking like one to watch. She earned the gold medal in the all-around at the DTB Team Challenge, holding off eventual 2019 World all-around bronze medalist Angelina Melnikova of Russia. Her 56.932 total there, showed the world she could contend.

But then came her knee injury.

Andrade’s absence from the Brazilian team at October’s Worlds was felt. It was a heartbreaking for competition for a team that nearly won bronze a year before, as veteran Jade Barbosa injured herself in the first rotation, leaving Brazil a woman down, in addition to Andrade.

Though they rallied as best they could, given the circumstances, the team finished 14th. Two devastating places and nearly 1.500 points away from qualifying a four-woman team to Tokyo 2020. That result meant Brazil only qualified one woman to July's Olympics: 2014 Youth Olympic Games gold medallist Flávia Saraiva.

Road to Tokyo 2020

“Not being able to help my team,” said Andrade of the most difficult part of her recovery. “To be looking and not being able to compete, not doing what I was born to do is really hard.

Andrade’s road to Tokyo has two potential paths, with both up in the air as questions swirl about what cancelled qualifying events will mean. The first would be earn enough points on the balance beam through the apparatus World Cups, where she scored a win at the 2018 Cottbus World Cup. That series is currently not scheduled to wrap up until the delayed Doha World Cup, June 3-6.

The second path is at May’s Pan American Championships in Utah. There, Andrade will need to finish in the top two among eligible athletes and countries.

Neither is easy, but Andrade told Olympic Channel she’s ready to give it her all for a return trip to the Olympic Games.

“If I make it to the Olympics, just by being there I'll already be very happy because I think it's something all athletes want, it's a big wish,” she said.

“I think everyone gives their 110% to be there, to perform in the best way possible and I won't be different. I believe I can achieve a little more. I'm taking this for all of my life. It will be very important.”

By the Olympic Channel.