Joao Luiz Ribeiro Sponsorship Award
Joao Luiz Ribeiro was born in Sao Joaquim, Santa Catarina. When he was twelve years old he wandered into an empty gymnastics gym. He lost himself playing on all of the equipment and was having so much fun that he didn’t notice the coach walking towards him. Scared that he was going to get in trouble, he had to make the decision on whether to stay or run. He decided to stay. The coach asked him if he wanted to join his gymnastics team. He told him about all of the competitions he could be a part of. He told him about the glory of the Pan American Games and the possibility of competing around the world at the world championships and maybe even one day competing at the Olympic Games.
Instantly, Joao fell in love with the sport. His coach taught him skills, discipline, work ethic, and patience. In very little time Joao was ready to compete. The problem was he couldn’t afford to travel to competition. With his own money, his coach told him that he would pay for him to compete at his first competition. Joao couldn’t believe that someone would do that for him. His first competition changed his life. The arena was big and beautiful and there were so many athletes and fans in the stands. While his heart was racing and he was nervous, he also was more excited then he had ever been in his whole life!
When he got home from his first competition he decided that he was going to dedicate everything he had to becoming the greatest Brazilian Gymnast in the country. He sacrificed everything. He worked harder then anyone, took more turns, did extra work before and after practice, and slowly but surely started to beat his competition, one athlete at a time. By the mid 1970’s, Joao Luiz was Brazil’s number one gymnast.
In 1979, he was selected for his first Pan American Games team. The experience was life changing. He met athletes from dozens of different sports in a dozen different countries. For the first time in his life he would have the chance to compete with the Brazilian team against the best gymnasts in the western hemisphere! He did not lose focus. He wanted to beat everyone. The problem was that Brazil had never earned a medal at the Pan American Games for Men’s Gymnastics. As the competition started the Brazilian team hit routine after routine with Joao leading the way. Once the meet was concluded, Brazil was standing on the podium, as the Bronze medal team, earning Brazil their first Medal in history.
Joao did not stop there. No Brazilian had ever competed in the Olympics for Men’s Gymnastics and Joao decided that he was going to be the first. He knew that he could earn a spot at the Olympic Games if he won the Brazilian National Championships in 1980. He competed one event at a time, performing flawless gymnastics, and slowly inching himself closer to his dream. Once the competition was over he knew he had done it. He would be the first Brazilian in history to represent his country at the Olympic Games!
Joao Luiz put Brazilian gymnastics on the map. After he retired, Joao and his wife Michele opened up two gymnastics schools, spending the next 40 years inspiring hundreds of young gymnasts to believe in themselves and push themselves farther then they knew they could go.
On October 13, 2023, Joao Luiz Ribeiro passed away. Joao Luiz Ribeiro will forever be a legend in Brazilian Gymnastics. In order to honor his legacy, Joao’s family has started the Joao Luiz Ribeiro Sponsorship Award to help Brazilian gymnasts who are in need of financial support, travel to competitions so that they can spark their dream the way that Joao did so many years ago. Joao Luiz’ coach gave him the chance to achieve his dreams. Now Joao Luiz’ legacy will live on forever as he will do the same thing for dozens of young Brazilian gymnasts for the indefinite future.