Military World Games: Brazil seeks victories
By Dialogo October 14, 2010
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil – What do tae kwon do martial artist
Natália Falavigna, swimmer Kaio Márcio, judokas
Flávio Canto and Leandro Guilheiro, sprinter
Vicente Lenílson and jumper Keila Costa have in
They are temporary sergeants with the Brazilian Army, part of a platoon of 72
who have changed civilian life for the military.
But the reason why they have temporarily joined the military is so they are
eligible to participate in the 2011 Military World Games from
July 16-24 in Rio de Janeiro. The event is expected to feature close to
5,000 athletes from more than 100 countries competing in 24 sports.
The Military World Games will be held in the same venues, which include the
João Havelange Stadium, the Maria Lenk water park and the Maracanãnzinho Stadium,
that hosted events for the Pan American Games in 2007.
The athletes who joined the armed forces have gained something more than an
opportunity to compete on the international stage: They’ve earned greater respect
from their family, friends and coaches by sporting the nation’s insignia on their
Nélio Moura coaches Keila Costa, a 27-year-old who holds South American
records in the triple jump (14.57 meters).
“Sometimes I joke because she is a sergeant,” Moura says of Costa, who
competed in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. “I am a civilian so I have to salute her. Of
course she still has to follow protocol, but our relationship is still the same.”
Floriano de Almeida, coach of the main judo team at the Minas Tennis Club –
one of the most prestigious clubs in the country – deals with a similar situation.
He coaches four military athletes who also are part of the Brazil’s Olympic
Judo Team: Luciano Corrêa, 27, Ketleyn Quadros, 23,
Érika Miranda, 23, and Helena Romanelli, 23.
“They were granted a special qualification in the Army … they had special
lessons and learned a lot,” Almeida says. “Of course it guarantees efficiency, but
judo is also based on hierarchy and respect for the elderly, and they still follow
Judoka Leandro Guilheiro earned a bronze medal in the 73 kilogram (160 pound)
competitions at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. He was selected for the platoon after
each of the 72 went through a selection process, a curriculum analysis, a medical
examination, passed a physical conditioning test and a final examination. They make
R$2,500 (US$1,502) monthly.
“There they taught us for three weeks what a sergeant needs to know,”
Guilheiro, 27, says. “We learned the military rules, we had artillery lessons and
every year we have to take an aptitude test to remain in the Army.”
Guilheiro, who has moved up to the 81 kilogram (178) class, is battling
fellow platoon member Flávio Canto, who won bronze in the 81 kilogram class at the
But even if Guilheiro fails to qualify, he doesn’t regret his decision to
join the armed forces.
“Everybody thinks that the Armed Forces has to do with wars, but actually,
the Army does a lot of different things, such as delivering medicine and saving
families from dangerous situations. The institution stresses partnership,
patriotism, citizenship and love for our country,” Guilheiro says.
And being a military man also has helped Guilheiro meet women.
“There are women who are somehow attracted to men in uniforms,” he says. “But
I don’t wear my uniform on the streets, only at the barracks. That is why I haven’t
found a girlfriend yet, but those who saw my pictures wearing a uniform said that I