by Andressa de Morais

How does it happen? How does a girl from Paraiba in the north of Brazil grow up to become one of the world’s best discus throwers?

You’d have to ask my Mom. All of this is because of her.

Her name is Djanete, and she's not just my hero, my role model and my biggest supporter – she was also once my rival.

It sounds crazy, but when I was 12, about a year after I first took up the sport, I competed against her in a regional competition. She won that one, but it didn’t take too long for me to get the best of her.

Andressa de Morais ()

Growing up as I did, it was always likely I would go this way: some of my earliest memories are from athletics.

I remember wandering around the local track at the age of four, passing time while my mother trained. She was a thrower who competed at national level and from a young age, she wanted me to practise sport.

I started out at school, throwing the shot put, hammer and discus, and juggled all three in my teenage years. I kept up the hammer until 2012, but then, when I qualified for the London Olympics in the discus, I decided it was time to focus on one.

In Brazil, football is obviously the main sport, so being a discus thrower was never going to make me super-famous, but I didn't do it for fame.

Even today, having been to two Olympics, most people there don’t know me, but it’s always nice when I meet people who do, which seems to happen more and more.

Andressa de Morais ()

For us, the biggest year was always going to be 2016: a home Olympics, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

But for me that year has mixed memories.

The experience was incredible, and the support from the crowd in Rio was amazing, but my performance was not. The year before I had thrown over 64 metres, but I got things wrong in the build-up to the Olympics.

I prepared in Cuba, where my coach was based, and if anything, I worked too hard. I went to Rio feeling exhausted, and was knocked out in qualification. Seeing the next day that 65 metres was enough to win a medal made it all the harder to deal with.

It hurt, but it was a very good lesson, one you only need to learn once. The following year I changed my approach and threw a Brazilian record of 64.68m to win the South American title. Last year I broke 65 for the first time, while just last week, I had the biggest throw of my career, throwing a South American record of 65.34m.

It’s days like that when you thank those who got you here: my coach, my family, and of course my mother.

In many ways, she’s the complete opposite to me, but despite that we get on so well. No matter where I am in the world, she’s someone I can always talk to, who is always listening, and together with my father she always supported my sporting dreams.

It wasn’t always easy. When I was 17, I moved from my home in João Pessoa da Parraíba to São Paulo. Even though I was hesitant about it, my parents convinced me to go.

Many years later, that decision is paying off.

Andressa de Morais ()

It’s still a long way until the World Championships and Olympics – I know that – but now I have reason to dream of a medal.

I know I can get better. My technique still needs to improve, to become faster and for me to throw slightly lower, but I’m getting there. And even though I’m still studying – I do physical education with English classes on the side – my mind is purely focused on the long-term goal: the next Olympics.

London 2012 and Rio 2016 weren’t what I wanted, but I’m older, stronger and wiser now – hopefully it’ll be third time lucky come Tokyo.