I come from a family of eight children. When I was seven years old, my family was dismantled. With no father in the picture, my mother, my brothers and I were kicked out of our one-room flat. My family was separated, leaving me to live with many different people in many different places, including an orphanage.
When I left the orphanage, age 15 years old, I got a job as a babysitter, working in many different families’ homes. When I received my first paycheck, I decided to fulfill my childhood dream by enrolling myself in a karate gym to watch others train. One Saturday, I borrowed a kimono so I could have my first lesson. At that time, I had no dream of taking part in competitions or representing my country, but after eight months, my performance was so good that my coaches encouraged me to participate at a state competition where I got third place. I was then sent to trials for the team who would represent Rio de Janeiro at the Brazil Cup. At the trials, I got first place, making the team which was headed to the Cup.
I was the champion at the Brazil Cup, and found myself on the Brazilian National Team for almost 20 years, only interrupted by the birth of my three children. I became the South American champion, Pan-American Champion, and in less than three years, I was a black belt in karate. It only took me a year and a half to make the Rio State Team and the Brazilian National Team.
At my first World Women’s Championship in Japan in 1990, I came in second place. But at that time, my life was a mess. I was involved with drugs and alcohol. I was always very sad and depressed after coming back from the competitions, where I had to have 100% success. I came back from competitions as a champion, but there was a void inside of me.
In January 1991, for the first time, I went inside of a church and heard the message of salvation — a message of Christ’s love that heals, frees and transforms. I surrendered to this call and to this love, which soon filled the empty spot in my heart. This brought me everything I was looking for. I understood that God loves me no matter where I’m from, what I do, what my color is, my achievements are, or my titles could be.
Jesus has become my life reference. I began walking with and living for Him, which made a big difference in my life as an athlete. I found a new balance for my performance and in my relationships. I became more disciplined. My life became more pleasant and tranquil, not tumultuous like it was before. I had great pleasure in talking with Jesus. Before going to bed, I would express my joy and thankfulness for this salvation from a path that was leading me to death.
God used sports to show me how much I must depend on Him because in sports you have no guarantee that your results will be proportional to your efforts. The fact is that if you believe in God, and live for Him, no matter what the result is in your sport, He will still be your God and you’ll still be loved by Him.
—Cica, Brazilian karate world champion