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Home News Wushu and Brazil: Gabriel Pedroso de Almeida fights against the odds

Wushu and Brazil: Gabriel Pedroso de Almeida fights against the odds

Summer Games 1 August 2023

Wushu is one of the most Asian sports of them all. It is such a big part of Chinese culture that its name literally stands for “martial arts”. So how in the world does a Brazilian from one of the most central parts of his country get into it?

“I’ve been involved with wushu for as long as I can remember,” said Gabriel Pedroso de Almeida, who takes part in Sanda, the fiercest variant of wushu where every form of contact counts towards the score. He fought in men’s 60kg at the Chengdu FISU Summer Games and fell in love with the sport because his father was also a fighter.

“My dad started wushu way back in the day because of a friend who introduced it to him,” he said. Gabriel started practicing when he was only four years old but stopped a year later due to health-related issues. He came back at 18 and has never looked back.

Gabriel was one of four Brazilians to come to Sichuan’s capital and represent the biggest country in South America in wushu. “I realize that the colors of my flag and the dreams of so many others lie on my back,” he said, “I am very happy to represent my country.”

The student-athlete also embodies what individual sports are like in Brazil. He has to pay for every expense and has no sponsors – and this gets in the way. “Can you imagine how bad it is for those, who, like me, have no sponsors?” he said, “we need to chase resources while we should be practicing.”

In 2022, Gabriel qualified to his first-ever international tournament, the Samsun 2022 FISU University World Cup Combat Sports in Türkiye. But there was only one problem: he could not afford the trip. Normally, someone would promptly offer to sponsor him to cover expenses, but this was not the case.

The fighter started crowdfunding online, organised raffles and sold yoghurt ice cream at the Federal University of Mato Grosso, where he studies computer engineering.

Eventually, Gabriel not only managed to go to Samsun, but he also got a bronze medal at the event. Still, he came back with no sponsorship offers in his mailbox.

For this reason, he intends to have a regular job in the tech industry. But he is not giving up on sports. “There is still a long way for me to go as a professional athlete in wushu,” he said.

The fact that wushu is not a popular sport in Brazil makes it even harder on Gabriel. “I have the adequate facilities to practice, but I don’t have enough sparring partners,” he said.

In Asia, the biggest wushu training facilities have many Sanda fighters, which greatly helps with training because, after all, iron sharpens iron. “It opens the door for you to learn techniques from other fighters and improve your own game,” said Gabriel, who is also a trainer in his hometown of Cuiabá.

He hopes to prepare a new generation of athletes and make wushu a more common sight in Brazil. “I want to show that, with a lot of effort and dedication, any Brazilian fighter can be the best,” he said. “The only thing you have to do is believe.”

Written by Pedro Consoli, FISU Young Reporter