Caroline de Lazzer (black shirt) and Rosangela Conceicao (green shirt), train together in a room inside of the officers club. The two met while wrestling on the national team in Brazil.
Caroline de Lazzer (black shirt) and Rosangela Conceicao (green shirt), train together in a room inside of the officers club. The two met while wrestling on the national team in Brazil.

Newlywed wrestlers who found a mat for life



Most newlyweds have their share of difficulty coming to grips with married life, but that cannot be said of Marcos Oliveira and Caroline de Lazzer.

The Brazilian couple, who tied the knot last year, are at the forefront of Abu Dhabi's wrestling scene and both hold world championships.

But their dreams of representing their country at wrestling's pinnacle, the Olympic Games, have narrowly gone unrealised.

Oliveira and de Lazzer were jiu-jitsu practitioners, but found wrestling to be a natural progression.

De Lazzer, 31, who has a blue belt in jiu-jitsu, watched the wrestling in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney with some curiosity.

"They looked like two alligators on the mat," she says. "I told my brother, who I was watching it with, that it was too crazy. He said: 'No this is a really good sport.' I watched some more and realised it too."

From there de Lazzer was hooked. Three years later while watching Brazil compete at the 2003 Pan American Games, she was told she had the talent to represent her country.

"I had a chance to compete but there was nowhere to train for me," she says.

She was watching the men train when the coach called her over.

"He asked my name and said he saw me wrestle and asked if I wanted to wrestle, and I was then on the national team," de Lazzer says.

She made it through three stages of qualifying, but just missed making the team for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Oliveira, 33, was also on the path to the Games. But he has since moved to mixed martial arts after missing Brazil's Olympic trials because he could not get back to the country in time.

"I was really disappointed," he says, adding he realised he would be too old by the time the next Games arrived. "Hopefully my first son or daughter will be in the Olympics."

The sport is as old as the Games and, over the centuries as wrestling has taken on different forms, the theory is still the same.

There are two disciplines, each with its own champions and governing bodies: Greco-Roman, where wrestlers cannot touch each other below the belt, and freestyle.

To win in either discipline, a wrestler must outscore his opponent or pin their shoulders to the mat. Takedowns and other technical points for reversals and exposures are scored between one and five.

Oliveira and de Lazzer say there is a strong community in the UAE with backgrounds in similar sports, such as jiu-jitsu.

"We had a lot of nationals representing the sport here and two went to the Arab Games" in Doha last year, de Lazzer says.

Although wrestling is technically an individual sport, young wrestlers need much support from their coaches and families.

"It is how I did it," Oliveira says. "My family never pushed me, never asked me for results and always gave me the support for school and as a sportsman.

"A wrestler needs a strong mind, very good balance, flexibility. They can't eat fast food. To be an Olympic wrestler, the diet is important."

Oliveira says there is a good foundation in the country for an Emirati wrestler to find success.

"I trained an Emirati kid and he has started to compete," he says. "We believe he can go on."

He goes to great lengths to explain that Olympic wrestling and television wrestling are totally different.

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) "is a show and those guys, they don't have any sport affiliation to wrestling," Oliveira says.

"They use the wrestling foundation to make some movements still. Many wrestlers move to WWE when they retire."

The specs

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The Genius of Their Age

Author: S Frederick Starr
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pages: 290
Available: January 24

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