Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
At age 19, Vidal became the first Venezuelan swimmer to win an olympic medal in the 200-meter butterfly competition in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Although he was the smallest man in the pool at 5-foot-6, Vidal was well ahead of West Germany's 6-foot-7 Michael Gross at the finish. However, one of Gross' elongated arms managed to touch the poolside first, robbing Vidal of silver. That heroic bronze-medal finish made him a national celebrity, with his image splashed on magazine and newspaper covers throughout Venezuela. His mark ranks him as the 8th of the top 10 swimmers in the 200-meter butterfly of all times.
A year later, Vidal left sports to pursue a career in administration and earned his master's degree in Computer Sciences from the University of Florida in Gainesville. After returning to Venezuela, he was employed by a local TV channel as a sports commentator and became a well-know TV personality.
Rafael Vidal died in Caracas, Venezuela on the early dawning morning of February 12, 2005 in a car crash. Roberto Detto, a 24 year old Venezuelan, driving a Hummer truck without any license plates, over the speed limit, and under the influence of cocaine according to the medical analysis done by the police at the time, repeatedly crashed his car against Vidalís Toyota Corolla killing him instantly. On April 15 a resolution on this criminal case is still missing from the authorities. The athlete was only 41 years of age when he died.
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