Gigi and Elan rush to get absolute champ to Worlds

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Elan Santiago embraces Rodrigo on the absolute purple belt winners' stand, last Saturday. Photo: Publicity

Now the first weekend of the Brazilian National Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2010 is over, it’s time for the purple belts to take a break, right? Not if you’re the absolute champion with two children to feed, like Rodrigo “Akillis” (or is it “Aquiles”?) da Conceição, from the Cantagalo favela.

Now the hurry is to get a United States visa for the lightweight Rodrigo to dispute the 2010 World Champion, this June in California. “Now we’re trying to find a way to get the kid to the Worlds,” says Professor Elan Santiago, of Alliance. “Gigi [Alexandre Paiva] is going nuts trying to get his documents in order, which is harder to do than training with Rodrigo!”

Jiu-Jitsu ace “Akillis” wasn’t the only one that brought a smile to Elan’s face. The “Sonho de um Beija Flor” project backed by Petrobras, where Elan has been teaching for the last five years, saw it’s first juvenile champions of Brazil take the winners’ stand.

Of the 35 mini-athletes, the project in Nilópolis conquered 14 golds, nine silvers and three bronzes. “We did awesome! Even I didn’t expect such solid results!” said the teacher.

Better still was seeing Rodrigo’s broad grin after winning his title. “He bet 50 reais with Fabio Gurgel that he’d get a gold medal. He figured it would be in the weight group, right? But the General softened and said it counted for the absolute on Sunday as well. We were stoked. The guy has two kids to raise, leads a hard life…” recounts Elan.

Some of the kids from the Nilópolis project. Photo: Publicity

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