By Adebayo Williams
Robson Conceicao said he felt like he was still in a dream after he became the first Brazilian to win Olympic boxing gold on Tuesday in front of an exhilarated Rio crowd. The man who sold vegetables and popsicles on the streets as an impoverished child is now a national hero after he defeated Frenchman Sofiane Oumiha on unanimous points in a thrilling lightweight final showdown. The 27-year-old, who previously said that growing up he once feigned an arm injury so he could get hospital treatment and then used the bandages to tape his hands for boxing training, was a deserved winner after another day of judging controversy in Rio.
“My life has changed with this, this is an incredible moment in my life,” he told reporters.
“I had a very difficult upbringing so this medal is not only a success for myself but a success for my family and all those people who took me to training, ever since I was a young boy.
“I am an Olympic champion so my life has changed for ever. It was an amazing crowd… an amazing day.”
Brazil had only ever won one silver and three bronze medals before Conceicao’s heroics.
It was the first time at the Games that the 9,000 capacity RioCentro Pavilion 6 had been packed to the brim and they nearly took the roof off.
Conceicao grew up fast hawking his meagre wares with his grandmother in the city of Salvador, in Brazil’s north, knocking on car windows of drivers to sell them melting popsicles.
Bronze went to Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez — a semi-final victim of Conceicao’s — and Otgondalai Dorjnyambuu of Mongolia. Oumiha was largely an unknown quantity heading into Rio and admitted the Brazilian was the better man on the day. Asked whether he felt more pride or disappointment at taking home silver, he replied: “A bit of both. But obviously as the time goes on I’ll realise my good fortune and I’m really proud of my silver medal and winning it for France.”