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She Opens Doors

In-line skater Da Silva is driven to try to beat male counterparts

August 07, 2004|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

Fabiola da Silva doesn't have the physical strength of her competition, so she finds strength from within.

It's a gift, she said, from her father, who died last year just before she skated in the X Games. And it's a personality trait from her mother, who is paralyzed on her right side -- the aftereffect of a stroke.

And it's a strength fueled by the loss of a close friend, Andre Abreu, who drowned in a boating accident in April.

Da Silva, a down-to-earth Brazilian, has used high-flying tricks to become the world's top female in-line skater. But it's something within, something even she can't explain, that is pushing her to be the top skater in the world, male or female.

Her quest continues tonight when she skates against the men in the X Games aggressive in-line vert competition. Already the most decorated female athlete in X Games history, with seven gold medals and one silver, she is the only female to compete against men in the in-line vert, having finished 12th last year.

But just being there isn't enough for the ultra-competitive 25-year-old.

"I think girls are capable to be as good as the guys," she said. "Why not? It's hard, of course, but I don't think I will ever give up."

That's what her father would have wanted, she said. Ernesto da Silva bought Fabiola her first pair of roller skates when she was 12. A year later, he saved up to buy her in-line skates. The owner and operator of a modest restaurant, it wasn't easy. In Brazil, in-line skates cost about $500.

Confined to a wheelchair after being stricken with liver cancer about two years ago, Ernesto remained his daughter's biggest supporter until his death last June at age 70. She nearly withdrew from the X Games last August but competed and won gold in the women's park.

"Last year I don't know how I won," Da Silva said. "I don't know how I did everything because I was not motivated to do anything, especially skating."

Then tragedy hit again, with word that Abreu drowned in an accident on a lake in Brazil. Abreu, 22, and Da Silva's sister, Fabiana, had dated for six years. He was close with the whole family, having helped care for Ernesto.

"He was like a brother to me," Da Silva said. "I know we shouldn't ask why, but when someone young dies it's hard to accept. So I just pray for both of them.... I get upset lots of times so I just start thinking about positive times that we had in the past."

Some of those involved in-line skating.

Da Silva seemed driven to compete against the best right from the start, even dressing like her mostly male competitors in baggy pants and oversized T-shirts.

"She wants to be the best," said Sandro Dias, Da Silva's boyfriend and himself a world-class skateboarder competing at the X Games. "The guys push her to try new things. They are at a different level and she wants to be at that level."

Da Silva is the only female who has landed a flatspin 540 and a fakie 900, but those tricks are standard fare for the guys. Most are doing double backflips. Da Silva is working on a double flatspin, a trick that could earn a medal in these Games, but she isn't ready to try it in competition yet.

"Skating with guys is so hard," she said. "I'm not saying I'm not talented, but the tricks are getting so gnarly that if you want to be in the top 10 you have to do all the tricks that they are doing. I still have a long way to go. I have many more tricks to learn, but I think someday it will come."

Da Silva earned a silver medal against the guys at the Latin X Games earlier this year and has finished in the top 10 in eight consecutive men's competitions since her 12th-place finish at last year's X Games.

"We know she can compete with us," said fellow Brazilian Vinicius Rosa. "She's that good."

After she is done trying to beat the guys, Da Silva could be in line for a Hollywood role. She is dealing with producers to star in a movie loosely based on her life. She has only commercial acting experience and has never taken acting lessons, yet is set to play the lead character in a movie about a girl chasing her dream to become an in-line skater.

She's already a larger-than-average star in her country and could be on the verge of gaining acclaim in the U.S., a thought that overwhelms her.

"I wasn't ever trying to be a star," she said. "I was just doing what I loved and all of a sudden things happened."

*

X Games Schedule

TODAY

At Staples Center

* 10-10:45 a.m.: Aggressive Inline Skate Vert practice.

* 11 a.m.-12:45 p.m.: Bike Stunt Park practice.

* 11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Aggressive Inline Skate Vert finals.

* Noon-4 p.m.: Skateboard Big Air practice.

* 1-3 p.m.: Bike Stunt Park finals.

* 1-3 p.m.: Skateboard Vert women's practice.

* 3-4 p.m.: Skateboard Vert women's finals.

* 4-5:45 p.m.: Skateboard Vert Best Trick practice.

* 6-7 p.m.: Skateboard Vert Best Trick finals.

At Home Depot Center

* 4-5 p.m.: Bike Stunt Dirt practice.

* 4:30-6:30 p.m.: Moto X Freestyle practice.

* 6:30-8:30 p.m.: Moto X Freestyle preliminaries.

At Huntington Beach, near the pier

* 9-11 a.m.: Surfing The GameTM practice.

* 11 a.m.-2 p.m.: Surfing The GameTM finals.

At Long Beach Marine Stadium

* 9-10:30 a.m.: Wakeboard men's and women's practice.

* 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Wakeboard women's finals.

* 12:30-2:30 p.m.: Wakeboard men's finals.

SUNDAY

At Staples Center

* 10 a.m.-12:45 p.m.: Skateboard Big Air practice.

* 1-3 p.m.: Skateboard Big Air finals.

At Home Depot Center

* 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Bike Stunt Dirt practice.

* 11 a.m.-noon: Moto X SuperMoto practice.

* 1-2 p.m.: Moto X SuperMoto finals.

* 2-2:45 p.m.: Bike Stunt Dirt practice.

* 3-5:30 p.m.: Bike Stunt Dirt finals.

* 4:30-6 p.m.: Moto X Freestyle finals.

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