Saturday, June 01, 2002

Da Silva still just one of the guys

Inline skater, 22, is one of the best in the world. Period.

By Gary Estwick,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Fabiola da Silva grew up a tomboy in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She bit her nails, wore baggy clothes and ran around with the neighborhood boys.

        Years later the former tomboy became the top female inline skater in the world. She was so dominant against women that in 2000, the sport's governing body gave her a chance to integrate the sport.

Fabiola Da Silva practices at Sawyer Point Friday.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |

       Nickname: Fabby
       Pro inliner since 1995
       Age: 22
       Lives in Costa Mesa, Ca.
       Favorite food: Rice and beans
       After extreme career: Wants to become veterinarian

       ESPN's list of World's Sexiest Female Athletes
       1) Anna Kournikova (tennis)
       2) Marion Jones (Track)
       3) Jeannette Lee (Pool)
       4) Amy Acuff (Track)
       5) Tatiana Gregorieva (Track)
       6) Tamara Jenkins (Kayaking)
       7) Fabiola da Silva (Inline Skating)
       8) Nikkii McCray (Basketball)
       9) Gabrielle Reece (Beach Volleyball)
       10) Lokelani McMichael (Triathalon)
        Under the “Fabiola Rule,” da Silva once again was hanging out with the guys.

        Two years after the ruling, competing against men has proved to be a challenge — and that's all she ever wanted.

        “I've been skating with guys since I started,” da Silva, 22, said. “I don't see a difference.”

        Da Silva hopes to show that today when she'll join more than 50 pros during the second weekend of the Mobile Skatepark Series at Sawyer Point. The Aggressive Skaters Association Pro Tour and Amateur Circuit festival runs today and Sunday. Admission is free.

        Da Silva is the only female inliner who can keep up with the high-air tricks performed by many of the men's competitors on vert ramps.

        “I think it's good for inline,” said fellow Brazilian Sandro Dias, a pro skateboarder. “She's really, really good. Everybody knows.

        “I wouldn't want her skateboarding; I wouldn't want to compete against her!”

        Da Silva doesn't just compete. She is a regular top-10 finisher. Her best finish against men was second, in March at the Latin American X Games Qualifier in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In April, da Silva placed third in the ASA Pro Tour stop in Dallas. Last month she placed 10th at a tour stop in Atlanta.

        She still competes against women in street competitions.

        Each tour stop has been a challenge. Before the “Fabiola Rule,” she had trouble getting up to compete.

        “You don't get motivated if you don't have somebody to push you,” da Silva said of her days competing against women in the vert. “It just made me upset. You just skate like it's rice and beans; just what you can do to pass by.

        “With guys, you can't just put something easy together.”

        From 1996-2000, da Silva won four out of five X Games women's vert competitions.

        “Fabiola was so superior to the rest of the women — we wanted Fabiola to be able to progress,” said Rick Bratman, president of the ASA. “Skating with the rest of the women, she really wasn't able to, because she was so much better than everyone else.”

        Being a sports pioneer has its ups and downs. Da Silva is happy because she's able to attract legions of girls to the sport. But at the same time, she feels pressure as the only women on the vert.

        Every time da Silva competes against men, she risks a potential pay cut. She could compete exclusively against women and win almost every competition.

        “I just don't like to think about the money,” she said. “If you're having fun, I think the money will come.”

        Her challenges aren't getting any easier.

        This is the first season da Silva will not earn prize money in both male and female contests. She will take home prize money only if she places in the men's vert competition.

        “At first, guys were (upset) because if I made top 10, I was getting money from top 10 (men) and money from the girls (competition). Everybody was like, "I'm going to skate with the girls then. It's not fair.'”

        And of course, her male counterparts didn't want to be beat by a woman.

        “You know how guys are,” she said.

        Nowadays, she doesn't give them much of a choice.


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