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The Most Famous

ATHLETES from Brazil

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This page contains a list of the greatest Brazilian Athletes. The pantheon dataset contains 3,059 Athletes, 20 of which were born in Brazil. This makes Brazil the birth place of the 43rd most number of Athletes behind Denmark and Slovakia.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Brazilian Athletes of all time. This list of famous Brazilian Athletes is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Brazilian Athletes.

Photo of Adhemar da Silva

1. Adhemar da Silva (1927 - 2001)

With an HPI of 50.08, Adhemar da Silva is the most famous Brazilian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 30 different languages on wikipedia.

Adhemar Ferreira da Silva (September 29, 1927 – January 12, 2001) was a Brazilian triple jumper. He won two Olympic gold medals and set four world records, the last being 16.56 metres in 1955 Pan American Games. In his early career he also competed in the long jump, placing fourth at the 1951 Pan American Games. He broke world records in triple jump on five occasions during his illustrious career. Up to date, he remains as the only track and field athlete from South America to have won two Olympic gold medals. He also had close association with Czech veteran long-distance runner Emil Zátopek for over 50 years.He remained as the sole Olympic gold medalist for Brazil up until the 1980 Summer Olympics. He is regarded as one of the finest ever South American athletes in history. He was the only Brazilian athlete to have won gold in two consecutive Olympics until the 2012 Summer Olympics held in London. During the London Olympics, the Brazilian women's volleyball squad defended their title, obtained four years earlier in Beijing, making six of their members consecutive Olympic champions (Jaqueline Carvalho, Sheilla Castro, Fabiana Claudino, Thaísa Menezes, Fabiana Oliveira and Paula Pequeno). He was the first Brazilian individual sportsperson to have set a world record in any sporting event. He became an extraordinary exceptional triple jumper despite not excelling in his speed and long jumping abilities. He was also a polyglot during his lifetime as he had learnt various languages such as English, Finnish, French, Japanese, Italian, German and Spanish in addition to Portuguese. He was a member of the São Paulo Futebol Clube, and because of him, the team coat has two gold stars above the emblem. He also had a short stint for Club de Regatas Vasco da Gama from 1955 to 1959.

Photo of Nelson Prudêncio

2. Nelson Prudêncio (1944 - 2012)

With an HPI of 47.01, Nelson Prudêncio is the 2nd most famous Brazilian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 20 different languages.

Nelson Prudêncio (April 4, 1944 – November 23, 2012) was a Brazilian athlete who competed in the triple jump. He won silver medals at the 1967 and 1971 Pan American Games and 1968 Summer Olympics, and a bronze at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Prudêncio was ranked world's #2 in 1968, #3 in 1972, #5 in 1975, and #8 in 1971.Prudêncio's jump of 17.27 metres (56 feet 8 inches) at the 1968 Olympics was the world record before Viktor Saneyev extended it to 17.39 metres (57 feet 1 inch) a few minutes later.Prudêncio was Professor of Physical Education at the Federal University of São Carlos and vice-president of Confederação Brasileira de Atletismo (Brazilian Athletics Confederation). He died of lung cancer on November 23, 2012, in São Carlos. He was 68 years old.

Photo of Vanderlei de Lima

3. Vanderlei de Lima (1969 - )

With an HPI of 44.80, Vanderlei de Lima is the 3rd most famous Brazilian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 29 different languages.

Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima (born 4 July 1969) is a Brazilian retired long-distance runner. He was born in Cruzeiro do Oeste, Paraná. While leading the marathon after 35 km at the 2004 Summer Olympics, he was attacked on the course by Irish former priest Cornelius "Neil" Horan. Following the incident, de Lima fell from first to third place, eventually winning the bronze medal. He was later awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for his sportsmanship shown in that race. De Lima won the Tokyo International Marathon in 1996 and the Hamburg Marathon in 2004. He won the South American Cross Country Championships in 1995, and the marathon at the Pan American Games consecutively in 1999 and 2003. He lit the Olympic cauldron and carried the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Photo of João Carlos de Oliveira

4. João Carlos de Oliveira (1954 - 1999)

With an HPI of 41.76, João Carlos de Oliveira is the 4th most famous Brazilian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

João Carlos de Oliveira, also known as "João do Pulo" (May 28, 1954 – May 29, 1999) was a Brazilian athlete who competed in the triple jump and the long jump.Born in Pindamonhangaba, São Paulo De Oliveira won two Olympic bronze medals. His personal best of 17.89 metres, set on October 15, 1975 in Pan American Games, stood as the world record until 1985. As of today, it is still in the top twenty of all-time best results in the event.

Photo of Joaquim Cruz

5. Joaquim Cruz (1963 - )

With an HPI of 40.64, Joaquim Cruz is the 5th most famous Brazilian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Joaquim Carvalho Cruz (born March 12, 1963) is a Brazilian former middle-distance runner, winner of the 800 meters at the 1984 Summer Olympics. He is one of only five men to run the 800 metres in less than 1 minute, 42 seconds.

Photo of Torben Grael

6. Torben Grael (1960 - )

With an HPI of 40.24, Torben Grael is the 6th most famous Brazilian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Torben Schmidt Grael (born 22 July 1960) is one of the most well known Brazilian sailors, renowned in international competitions. A descendant of Danes, he was taken sailing by his grandfather at the age of five years on the sailboat Aileen, of the 6 Metre class, which was the boat used by the silver medal winning 1912 Summer Olympics Danish sailing team. Once he moved to Niterói, he started sailing with his brother, Lars Grael, also an Olympic medal winner, on the Bay of Guanabara. He is father of Olympic champion Martine Grael.

Photo of Robson da Silva

7. Robson da Silva (1964 - )

With an HPI of 38.68, Robson da Silva is the 7th most famous Brazilian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 18 different languages.

Robson Caetano da Silva (born September 4, 1964 in Rio de Janeiro) is a Brazilian sprinter. He participated in four consecutive Olympic Summer Games (1984, 1988, 1992, 1996) and won the bronze medal over 200 metres in the 1988 Seoul Olympics as well as in the 4×100 m relay in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Da Silva won three victories at World Cup competitions (1985, 1989, and 1992) over 200 m. He set two South American records over 100 metres and five over 200 m. In 1989, he was ranked No. 1 in the world with a time of 19.96 s over 200 m. His personal best of 10.00 makes him the fastest South American in history.Regarding performance-enhancing drugs, Da Silva has stated he decided "not to take [them] and lose because it was a matter of character [and] dignity".

Photo of Robert Scheidt

8. Robert Scheidt (1973 - )

With an HPI of 37.00, Robert Scheidt is the 8th most famous Brazilian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Robert Scheidt (born April 15, 1973) is a Brazilian sailor who has won two gold medals, two silver medals and a bronze from five Olympic Games and a Star Sailors League Final. He is one of the most successful sailors at Olympic Games and one of the most successful Brazilian Olympic athletes, being one of only two to earn five medals along with fellow sailor Torben Grael, and the only Brazilian sailor to win medals in both dinghy and keelboat classes.

Photo of Maurren Maggi

9. Maurren Maggi (1976 - )

With an HPI of 33.32, Maurren Maggi is the 9th most famous Brazilian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 28 different languages.

Maurren Higa Maggi (born June 25, 1976, in São Carlos) is a former Brazilian track and field athlete and Olympic gold medallist. She is the South American record holder in the 100 metres hurdles and long jump, with 12.71 seconds and 7.26 metres respectively. She also has a best of 14.53 metres in the triple jump – a former South American record. She is the first Brazilian woman to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual sport.In 2003, Maurren got in a doping scandal after clostebol was found on her sample. She claimed that an anti-scarring gel sheet that she used contained the anabolic steroid in its composition. Maurren was suspended for two years, preventing her from participating in the 2003 Pan American Games. She missed going to the Olympic Games due to a pregnancy.She finished second at the 2009 Troféu Brasil Caixa de Atletismo to Keila Costa, losing the event for the first time since 1998.Maurren was married to racer Antônio Pizzonia, with whom she has a daughter, Sophia.

Photo of Emanuel Rego

10. Emanuel Rego (1973 - )

With an HPI of 32.99, Emanuel Rego is the 10th most famous Brazilian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.

Emanuel Fernando Sheffer Rego (born April 15, 1973) is a male beach volleyball player from Brazil, who competed in five consecutive Summer Olympics, starting in 1996. He won the gold medal in the men's beach team competition at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, partnering Ricardo Santos. He famously offered his medal to his compatriot Vanderlei de Lima – who won a bronze in the men's marathon after being attacked by Neil Horan – a year later, though it was politely declined. He was born in Curitiba, and is married (2013) to volleyball Olympic medallist and Senator Leila Barros.

Pantheon has 20 people classified as athletes born between 1927 and 2008. Of these 20, 17 (85.00%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living athletes include Vanderlei de Lima, Joaquim Cruz, and Torben Grael. The most famous deceased athletes include Adhemar da Silva, Nelson Prudêncio, and João Carlos de Oliveira. As of April 2022, 4 new athletes have been added to Pantheon including André Domingos, Rayssa Leal, and Yane Marques.

Living Athletes

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Deceased Athletes

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Newly Added Athletes (2022)

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Which Athletes were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 3 most globally memorable Athletes since 1700.