Brazil is known for many things – its beautiful beaches, Carnival, the Christ statue and Pão de Queijo (Brazilian cheese bread).
In December this year, the South American country will celebrate one more thing: the impressive delegation it will represent at this year's Bikini Olympia. Three qualified athletes will represent Brazil in this year's competition, and many who have USA with their name were born there, such as Raphaela Milagres.
"Brazilians are just hard workers by nature," Raphaela, who now lives in Florida, told Muscle & Fitness. "We have to work hard to be successful for what we want."
Etila Santiago, who recently moved to Florida from Brazil, agrees with this view. "That's true," she says. "We have a really strong work ethic."
The rise of Brazilian competitors has also caught the attention of the most influential executives in the fitness industry. Olympic President Dan Solomon told Muscle & Fitness: “These are some of the most dedicated athletes in the world. I have met many of these inspiring women and we are proud to see each of them at this year's Olympics. "
Hard work is something that every bodybuilder, regardless of division, must accomplish on an Olympic stage. However, there's no denying that genes play a role too, and Brazilian genetics have taken the bikini division by storm.
"The Brazilians are in good shape for the bikini," says Etila. “We tend to have really good glutes and shoulders. The Brazilians are also successful in many other divisions, but definitely in bikini. "
"We have bigger legs and fuller glutes," says Raphaela. "It's part of our genes, of course."
Don't take your word for it though – the last three Bikini Olympic champions have been won by Brazilians. Elisa Pecini won the title in 2019 and Angelica Teixeira was declared the winner in 2018 and 2017. Both will compete for this year's Olympics from December 17th to 20th with their Brazilian compatriots Etila and Raphaela on Planet Hollywood Las Vegas.
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The two emerging talents have similar backgrounds that brought them to this point: They were both dissatisfied with their bodies and felt too thin.
"I wanted to be curvier," remembers Raphaela. "I've dealt with fear, too, and I still do. I think it was good for both of them to get involved so I can be active and healthier."
The competition wasn't on her radar until her trainer saw her natural talent and suggested that she put on a show. She received her Pro Card in 2013 at the Arnold Classic South America and experienced an unbeaten streak in Brazil.
Etila is a former model and knew that she wanted to work out to gain more mass. The looks of the bikini competitors appealed to them more than those of the other divisions.
“I saw the shape of the bikini and thought it would be better for me,” she says.
One of her biggest challenges was the amount of food she had to eat. As a model, she ate much less than she does now. But she tries to enjoy every part of the process: the meals, the weight lifting, and everything else in between.
"I try to enjoy it all the time," she says.
Etila's hard work has made her a recognizable face in the division and a force to be reckoned with – she took first place in this year's New York Pro.
With such high profile talent competing at this year's Bikini Olympia, both girls admit that staying ahead will not be easy. "The division is really difficult," says Raphaela. "There are a lot of pretty girls with really, really great bodies."
"At this point you have to say to God," It's up to you, "says Etila." I've done everything I could. w it's up to him. "
Don't miss out on all the action from December 17th to 20th. Tickets are now available at MrOlympia.com Joe Weider's Olympia Fitness & Performance Weekend is presented as Trifecta, presented to you by Wings of Strength and rthern Chill.