A Woman Worth her Weight in Gold: The Story of Sergeant Yane Marques

A silver medalist in the Korea 2015 World Military Games, bronze medalist in the Beijing 2012 Olympics, and two-time Pan American Games champion, Yane Marques will be the Team Brazil flag bearer at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Since 2009, she has been a sergeant in the Brazilian Army, as part of the Ministry of Defense’s High Performance Athlete Program.
César Modesto/Diálogo | 4 August 2016

International Relations

Brazil's flag bearer Yane Marques leads the delegation during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 5th, 2016. (Photo: Leon NEAL/AFP)

“The qualities that I have, which favor me, are inherent to athletes, can be optimized as: dedication, respect, commitment, responsibility, and being goal-oriented. After all, without a goal, why train so much? I think these qualities have made me an athlete who gets results, and my goal is always to earn all the good things that have happened in my life so far.” Those were the words of 32-year-old pentathlete and Brazilian Army Sergeant Yane Marques, who was voted Team Brazil’s flag bearer at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

A native of Afogados da Ingazeira, Pernambuco, Marques was chosen by 49 percent of the 961,562 popular votes, outpacing Olympic volleyball champion Serginho (40 percent), and sailing champion Robert Scheidt (11 percent), to become the second Brazilian woman ever to carry the flag during the open ceremonies of the Olympics. In Sydney 2000, Sandra Pires, a beach volleyball Olympic champion, carried the Brazilian flag during the opening festivities.

“There were a few surprises: first, being recommended, then, this outcome. Carrying the flag is an honor. I want to be a very upbeat flag bearer and a spokesperson for the sentiment that Brazilians are going to unite through sports,” Marques said, in an interview with Brazilian television show Fantástico, on local network Globo.

Her calling to this sport emerged in October 2003, when she was 19 years old. But before that, she played volleyball and was even a Brazilian swimming champion at age 15.

After leaving her hometown and moving to the state capital of Pernambuco when she was 11, Marques trained at the same pool as Brazilian swimmer and Olympic veteran Joanna Maranhão. One day, she was asked to participate in a biathlon competition that involved swimming and running.

At that time, then Brazilian Army Major Alexandre França – a recent transfer in search of new talent to compete in the modern pentathlon, a five-stage sport, including fencing, swimming, show jumping, shooting, and running – founded the Recife Pentathlon Federation and used the biathlon competition for selection. Now Lieutenant Colonel Alexandre, he is still one of Yane’s coaches.

The young athlete won the competition and was introduced to a sport that would change her life. “I had no idea what [the modern pentathlon] was. When I was introduced to it, I thought it was interesting and challenging. I was immediately all in,” Marques said.

In 2004, after practicing the sport for just one year, Marques became the Brazilian champion of the modern pentathlon. One year later, she received an award from the Brazilian Olympic Committee (BOC) as the top athlete in the sport, which she leads this year with 140 points.

A victorious career

Yane Marques will be the Team Brazil flag bearer at the Rio 2016 Olympics. She has been a sergeant in the Brazilian Army since 2009, as part of the Ministry of Defense's High-Performance Athlete Program. (Photo: AFP)

With her national achievements and the BOC’s recognition, Marques dedicated herself in full to the sport, becoming one of the top athletes in the world.

She won the gold medal at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2007, which, by classifying, guaranteed her a spot at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where she finished in 18th place.

In 2009, she joined the Brazilian Army at the request of her coaches, becoming part of a team that would compete in the 2011 World Military Games in Rio de Janeiro, where she won gold (teams), silver (individual), and bronze (mixed relay), helping Brazil finish in first place overall in the event.

In 2011, she also won the silver medal at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, rising to third place in the sport’s worldwide ranking and ensuring her a spot in the 2012 London Olympics, where she brought home the bronze medal. This made her the first Latin American athlete to stand on the podium for the modern pentathlon in the history of the Olympic Games.

From 2013 to 2015, she won the gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, the gold medal at the Kremlin Cup in Russia, the gold medal in the South American Games in Chile, the gold medal at the Pan American Championships in Mexico City, the silver medal at the World Military Games in Korea in 2015, the silver medal at the World Championships in Taiwan, and the bronze medal at the Champion of Champions Tournament in Qatar.

She will compete in the fencing, swimming, show jumping, shooting, and running competitions at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 18-20.

Marques is currently ranked 12th in the world, and finished in 7th place at the sport’s World Cup and 14th in the Olympic category.

A high-performance military athlete

Of the 473 athletes on Team Brazil at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Marques is one of 145 military athletes who are competing and have also benefited from the Ministry of Defense’s High Performance Athlete Program.

Her training routine is frenetic. As a sergeant, she uses the facilities at the Army’s Physical Training Center in Rio de Janeiro and competes in military competitions, representing the Brazilian Army.

In addition to earning a salary commensurate to their rank, athletes in the Ministry of Defense’s High Performance Athlete Program have access to the Armed Forces’ nutritionists, physical therapists, physicians, dentists, and coaches.

According to Marques, her acceptance into the Armed Forces was a breeze, primarily in light of the similarity between her principles and those of the military.

“I think that the military’s values are very close to those of athletes, like respect, responsibility, commitment, and dedication. It seems like by being in the Military, we feel as though we’re representing our country more, we feel more patriotic,” the Sergeant said.

Marques trains mostly in the cities of Recife, in Pernambuco; Curitiba, in Paraná; and Porto Alegre, in Rio Grande do Sul. But she also participates in training camps abroad, particularly in the United States, France, and Italy, in order to focus on sports that aren’t common in Brazil, like fencing.

The origin of the pentathlon

The pentathlon is essentially a military sport, introduced to the Ancient Olympic Games in 708 B.C.

According to historic records, the Spartans, a people with a storied military tradition in Ancient Greece, used the pentathlon to select their top and most versatile soldiers.

Shortly after being included in the games, it quickly gained notoriety due to its warrior aspect, and its winner was considered a great champion, the de facto winner of the Olympic Games.

After a reformulation, the sport joined the games in the modern era at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, at the hands of Swedish Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who transformed the pentathlon into a more modern version.

The new format even simulated a military situation where a solider had to take a message by crossing enemy battle lines while riding a horse, armed with a revolver and a sword. After his horse was injured, the soldier had to conclude his mission by running and swimming across rivers.

The modern pentathlon was modified yet again to its current form at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, in which athletes were required to compete in all five events in a single day.

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