A Fight for Peace warrior from Brazil’s North East

08/06/2017 – Just over a year ago, 16 year old Camila Pessoa wouldn’t have been able to tell you what a combat sport was. Now, she is training vigorously ahead of junior National Championships in not one, but two wrestling disciplines; simultaneously vying for two gold medals and a potential selection to the Brazilian national team. All of this having yet to lose a fight, and having already this year taken home gold medals in numerous state and national competitions in both disciplines. This meteoric rise is down to Camila’s steadfast resolve, bravery and an unwavering determination.

Having grown up in a small town in the interior of Ceará state, in Brazil’s North East, Camila left a quiet and simple life and travelled two and a half thousand kilometres to Rio de Janeiro, to study, work and, as she puts it, “create something more” for herself. She arrived in Rio to discover that her mother, who she had come to join, had disappeared, and was forced to move in with her aunt and cousins in the Maré complex of favelas. At school and around the community, having initially been confused by the sports the children were discussing, she asked if her cousin, who does judo at the Fight for Peace Academy, would take her along.

Camila loved the atmosphere at the Academy and instantly felt welcomed into the family. Before long she was signing up for classes, and was desperate to do judo, just like her cousin. A clash with her school timetable meant that she had to join wrestling classes instead, but she would soon to find out that wrestling is where her talent really lies. Fight for Peace Wrestling Coach, Mosquito saw this potential and the two started working closely together over the next few months. An unexpected two-month absence due to personal family issues only made her hungry for more, and she returned more focused and more desperate than ever to train. “I started training hard, I started running around the community, getting in shape.” She had missed the Academy itself too, and couldn’t stop mentioning the family atmosphere that she enjoyed so much there, saying she often preferred being at her “second home”, than at her own house.

Back in training sessions, she impressed Mosquito, and in January of this year he selected her for the free wrestling team competing in the Rio State Championships. Camila promptly repaid this faith with a gold medal. She carried this form into February, where she took home gold at another competition, this time competing with athletes from all over Brazil, and gaining qualification for the Brazilian Wrestling Confederation’s National Championship in June.

Camila, seemingly not content with competing in just one wrestling discipline, started to compete in Olympic wrestling competitions too. Her career followed a similarly stratospheric trajectory – winning every state and national competition she entered – and she now finds herself in the unique position of training for a national championship in two different disciplines, both held within one week of each other, with the first starting on 10th of June.

“This is it”, she says firmly. “If I can win this, then I may get the chance to compete for Brazil all over the world, in all sorts of competitions. It’s my gateway to everything…to the world.” If Camila wins, she will gain government grants and probable selection for the national side, which will change the course of her life. “I’ve got to win, simple as that”, she says, with complete conviction. This steely determination for a different future – combined with a fiercely talented young athlete – makes Camila a daunting prospect for any opponent.