Old friends share how they got on track from Brazil to Eugene

EUGENE, Ore. - Jose da Silva met Jose Luiz Barbosa in a track club in Brazil when they were teens.

"I was somebody he looked up to because he was just starting," da Silva recalled, "and in a matter of 2 years, we knew he was going to be one of the greatest runners ever."

Barbosa went on to compete in four summer Olympics; da Silva became a school administrator in Eugene.

The Olympian shared his story of overcoming poverty with students Wednesday at Kelly Middle School, where da Silva is the school's principal.

Their lives weren't easy in their native Brazil before they came to Eugene.

"I came for track, not because I was good, I came for track because I wanted food," Barbosa said.

Barbosa attended Lane Community College and competed at Hayward Field. He is in the LCC Hall of Fame and represented Brazil in the Olympics in 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996.

When da Silve got ready to head for London to attend college, Barbosa interviened to bring da Silva to Oregon instead.

"I came here, went to U of O, get all papers, everything you need, pay for his tuition, pay for his ticket, pay for everything, everything paid," Barbosa said, "and he's here since 1985."

Now Barbosa coaches track in southern California, but da Silva hopes to convince his friend to stay in Oregon.

"For selfish reasons I'd like for him to be here," da Silva said. "So I'm working on it. He knows that I readily admit it, that I had alternative motive to invite him to come."