The Street Athletes of Rio

These are the bodies you won’t see on TV this month.

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If you want to get a true sense of a place—of a culture—you can listen to its music, eat its food. But in Rio de Janeiro, above all else, you must watch how the bodies move.

Of course, in a hot city that’s encircled by beaches, bodies of Cariocas are on near-constant display. But that’s not the sole motivation for their dedication to fitness. Physicality is the way they interact with their environment, the way they communicate, the reason they congregate. Physicality is Rio’s culture. Movement is the way of life. 

Which makes the residents of Rio, old and young alike, natural athletes. “My favorite place in Rio de Janeiro is the lagoon, not only because it connects a number of the southern neighborhoods of the city, but because it has a beautiful landscape with many spaces for capoeira,” says Sonny Duke, 26, who has been practicing the movement form for twelve years. Gabriel Faria, 28, who was introduced to slacklining by friends visiting from California, uses his sport “to find my balance with and be close to nature.”

Replicating the Rio body is nearly impossible. For starters, it takes many forms. The lifters who do sunrise sessions at the Flintstones gym are distinct from the footvolley players who meet on the hills overlooking Copacabana. The dancers who create choreography in the cliffs of the favelas are different from the boxers who spar in the streets.


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Uniting them, though, is a deep-seeded desire to move. While the professionals will descend upon Rio and occupy the limelight this month, watch this short film to see the true street athletes—the atletas de rua—in beautiful, Brazilian motion.   


Directed by Dan Gianini