Brazil's sporting icons

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Pelé

With Brazil hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, here's a look at some of the country's most famous sporting icons. See Gallery

Pelé isn't just a Brazilian sporting icon. He's the most iconic football player who ever played the sport. To list just a few of his accomplishments: he's the only player to have won three World Cups, in 1958, 1962 and 1970 and is the all-time leading scorer for Brazil's national team with 77. In 1999, he was selected by a grand jury as the FIFA Player of the Century with 73 per cent of the votes. He was also named Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee.

Click or swipe to see more of Brazil's sporting icons.

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Ayrton Senna

Motor racing driver Ayrton Senna won three Formula One world championships during his career from 1984-1994 and became a national icon in Brazil. He died in a crash during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix but is still considered one of the sport's greatest drivers.

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Anderson Silva

Anderson "The Spider" Silva is a mixed martial artist from São Paulo. The six-foot, two-inch southpaw was Middleweight Champion for 2,457 days, the longest title reign in UFC history. Silva broke bones in his leg in a gruesome fight in December 2013 and it remains to be seen if he will return to the ring.

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Maria Bueno

Born in São Paulo, Maria Esther Bueno was one of the most dominant tennis players of the 1960s. Bueno won 19 Major titles during her career and was the first woman to win all four Grand Slam double titles in one year.

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Rodrigo Pessoa

Equestrian Rodrigo Pessoa is a two-time Olympic gold medalist who won more than 70 Grand Prix show jumping events throughout his career. He was Brazil's official flag bearer at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

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Emerson Fittipaldi

Motor racing driver Emerson Fittipaldi was the first Brazilian to win the Formula One World Drivers' Championship in 1972 and again in 1974. He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2001.

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Bob Burnquist

Brazilian skateboarder Bob Burnquist has won 12 gold medals at the Summer X Games.

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Romário

Romário is one of the most prolific goal scorers in the history of football, ranking third on Brazil's national team and second in Brazil's football league. He came fifth in the FIFA Player of the Century poll and his popularity helped him get elected to the Chamber of Deputies in Brazil's 2010 election. More recently he has been an outspoken critic of the 2014 World Cup, making accusations of corruption and money laundering.

AP Photo/Francisco Seco
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Marta

Marta Vieira da Silva, better known as Brazilian football star Marta, was chosen as FIFA's World Player of the Year five years in a row, from 2006 to 2010. She's been in the top three every year since 2004.

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Adhemar Ferreira da Silva

Brazilian athlete Adhemar Ferreira da Silva set a new world record in the triple jump at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. He brought home the gold medal for a second time in the same event in 1956.

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Ronaldo

Ronaldo is a footballer from Rio de Janeiro who scored 62 goals for Brazil's national team, second only to Pelé for the team record. He was named FIFA World Player of the Year three times and helped Brazil win the World Cup in 1994 and 2002. His 15 goals in 19 World Cup games make him the tournament's top overall goal scorer.

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Ronaldinho and Rivaldo

Alongside Ronaldo for the 2002 World Cup win were Ronaldinho (left) and Rivaldo (right). Ronaldinho won the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005 while Rivaldo took home the coveted trophy in 1999. Both have been inducted into the Brazilian Football Museum Hall of Fame.

REUTERS/Toru Hanai
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International volleyball teams

Brazil has had massive success with its international volleyball teams. The women's team took home the gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics and have won the FIVB World Grand Prix nine times since 1994. The men won silver at the 2012 Summer Games, but came in first at the 2013 World Grand Champions Cup. As of January 2014, both teams were ranked in the top spots by the FIVB, the international governing body for the sport.

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Nelson Piquet

Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1952, Nelson Piquet went on to become one of the greatest Formula One drivers ever, winning world championships in 1981, 1983 and 1987.

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Gustavo Kuerten

Gustavo Kuerten, from Florianópolis, Brazil, was ranked the world's No. 1 singles tennis player in December 2000. He won 20 career titles including the French Open three times before retiring in 2008.

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Éder Jofre

Brazilian boxer Éder Jofre retired with a professional record of 72 wins, two losses and four draws, with 50 of his wins coming via knockout. From September 1962 until May 1965, Jofre was the undisputed bantamweight champion of the world.

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Zico

Arthur Antunes Coimbra, known as "Zico," never won a World Cup, although he was listed in the Top 10 of FIFA's Player of the Century list in 1999. He has coached football since 1999, including for the Japanese national team and Turkish club Fenerbahçe.

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Garrincha

Manuel Francisco dos Santos or "Garrincha" helped Brazil win the World Cup in 1958 and 1962. When he and Pelé were on the field together, Brazil never lost a game. He died from cirrhosis of the liver in 1983 at age 49, after years of heavy drinking and personal problems.

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Royce Gracie

Royce Gracie was one of the UFC's first stars and helped popularize his family's custom version of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In 1993 and 1994, during the UFC's first four events, Gracie won 11 consecutive fights by way of submission, a streak that's still a record today.

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Kaká

Kaká, whose real name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, signed his first professional football contract with São Paulo FC when he was 15. Since then he's played for Milan and Real Madrid and won the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2007. He played in the previous two World Cups but is not in the squad for the 2014 tournament.