Tribute, overcoming hardship and Jiu-Jitsu in superhuman Iron Man race

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Athletes at Iron Man Brasil, held in Florianópolis: around 4km swimming, 180km biking and 42km running, in the name of friendship. Photo: Personal archive/GRACIEMAG

There are three ever-present words at Jiu-Jitsu championships: overcoming, friendship and tribute. They also fit the bill for the story we’re about to tell.

A competitive triathlete, Fabio Samuel “Lixo” Ávila was training hard to enter his first Iron Man competition – the World Cup of the sport – until he had a high-speed run-in with fate. Last July, Fabio suffered a car accident in São Paulo and is in a coma to this day.

Because of the accident, Jiu-Jitsu practitioner Ricardo “Foquinha” Landim of Ryan Gracie academy and friend Caco Fiqueiredo decided to pay their unfortunate chum quite a tribute: they decided to enter the Iron Man Brazil competition in the city of Florianópolis in their partner’s place.

They transformed eight months of training, battling and suffering into an homage, dedication and hope. At the end of May, when the race took place, over 20 friends traveled to Florianópolis to cheer for them, all wearing T-shirts with Fabio’s name and the phrase “Together we’re strong” emblazoned on them.

Foquinha took the opportunity to remember the late master Ryan Gracie, whose face also featured on the competition T-shirt, right on the breast.

“Several times during the race Foca ran alongside his brother Foquinha, egging him on so he would finish,” recounted another friend of theirs, Leandro. “Meanwhile, Lixo was still in the hospital in São Paulo, but also wearing the team uniform, in some way cheering for them. After plenty of emotion, pain and fatigue, both completed the race.”

Ricardo Foquinha (clocked time: 12 hours and 44 minutes) and Caco (14 hours and 58 minutes) finished the race and knew just what to do. “Now enough of running and pedaling, back to just Jiu-Jitsu,” shouted Foquinha as he crossed the finishing line.

“Foquinha and I had the biggest and toughest personal experience of our lives, which was to complete Iron Man Brazil 2012. The body reaches its limit, and only the support of special people can get you to forge ahead. We love you, Fabio,” said Caco, the latest white belt on team Ryan Gracie, also one of the team’s biggest warriors.

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