Background: Much has been said about both Santos-Dumont and his inventions, but little has been said about the nature of his favorite sport at the turn of the 20th century: aviation,
and its risks. As Santos-Dumont met all the requisites to become an Olympic sportsman, Pierre de Coubertin, the president of the recently founded International Olympic Committee (1894), awarded
Santos-Dumont in 1905 one of the very first Olympic diplomas as he was the sports personality of his time. The objective of this research was to uncover and develop the image of Santos-Dumont as a
sportsman, especially playing a very dangerous sport (aviation), and his trajectory to become an Olympic hero.
Methods:The method used was the systematic review of texts collected in primary and secondary sources in various locations: from the archives of the Olympic Studies Center of the
International Olympic Committee and of the LA84 Foundation, Los Angeles, California, U.S, to the Petropolitano Sports Club in Petropolis and Santos-Dumont’s own writings.
Results: Santos-Dumont started his sports life very early: from his hunting adventures in his father’s farm as a child, to tennis, rowing, horseback riding, golf, snow sports, auto
racing, tricycle racing and aviation. In Paris, as he devoted himself to the construction of dirigibles and airplanes, he had to face many challenges and almost died in serious accidents.
Conclusions: Alberto Santos-Dumont played a variety of sports during his lifetime and, especially put his life at risk in his trials with dirigibles and airplanes at a time when
aviation was considered a sport. It is also possible to think of Santos-Dumont as one of the pioneers of extreme sport. His sporting challenges and feats were recognized by society at his own time and
he was awarded an Olympic diploma by Pierre de Coubertin in 1905.