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Rafael Saladini

Do you have a nickname that you go by?
Sardinha is the most used in the brazilian paragliding community. 
But the international paragliding community calls me Rafa or Saladini.

Where do you live?
Ever since I became a father, I left Rio de Janeiro and came back to where I was raised, a little village in the country side of Rio, called Porto Real, in the skirts of the fourth highest mountain of Brazil, Pico das Agulhas Negras.

What do you do for work?
My family has businesses in different sectors, and Im a board member from a council that runs those companies.
I also work with my brother in his movie production company – I directed two paragliding movies about my world records, Ciclos 1 (2009) and Ciclos 2 (2018), and Im currently producing another one.
But my favorite project at the moment is a former cattle farm in the skirts of a National Park that Im starting to reforest and turn it into a Private Reserve of Natural Heritage.

What year, and how old were you when you started flying?
My first attempt was back in 1999, when I was only 16 years old. I was so irresponsible and reckless. After 8 months flying, I exploded like a tomato just after launch in Pico do Gavião – I broke my pelvis in two parts, my left foot and my right wrist. I was so traumatized that I only came back in 2003. My return was also scary, as I kept unconsciously trying to kill myself. My beginning was a tragedy. People would watch me from the beach in my local site in Rio and think: “Oh my God, here he comes”.

Did a family member introduce you to paragliding? Does anyone else in your family fly?
My father introduced me to hang gliding when I was 14 years old. We both flew tandem. However, when I was 16, my cousin was paragliding already, and invited me to join him.

What other passions do you have, or activities do you enjoy?
Sports – Sailplanes, Snowboarding and Kitesurfing.
I also need to travel and explore new places for the sake of my soul.
Tropical forests, wildlife and cold waterfalls are a big part of my lifestyle.

Why is flying important to you, and what does flying mean to you?
Paragliding was the best school of life I could have. I was born in a wealthy family, full of shortcuts to reach my goals. My comfort zone was a black hole that would suck every drop of challenge from my life. Paragliding turned my old predictable world upside down. I had to learn from zero how to deal with my frustrations, my defeats, my fears. It doesn’t matter if you have the best gear, you only win when you deserve it. 
As a sportsman, thermal flying probably is one of the best interactions we can have with the forces of our planet. In my world record attempts, I had to learn how to fly from sunrise until sunset – it is indeed the ultimate sense of freedom, and I feel really connected with this crazy living organism called Planet Earth and the pulse of its atmosphere throughout the day. It is pretty much like Yoga – that connection needs discipline, effort and curiosity.

Flying Accomplishments

  • 4 world records
  • 3 straight distance world records
  • 2007 – 461km
  • 2016 – 564km
  • 2019 – 582km
  • World Cup Winner – Pico do Gavião 2017
  • XContest PGOpen Champion – 2008
  • 3 times Brazilian Champion – 2017, 2018, 2019
  • Won a Superfinal task and 3 PWC tasks

Do you have any goals, dreams or plans for the next 1-2 years that you want to share?
Goals – Fly 600km in a straight line, Top 5 in the next Superfinal and World Championship.
Dreams – Win a Superfinal or/and a World Champioship
Plans – Fly in Texas, Pakistan, India and Nepal.
And above all, become the best version of myself to teach everything I can to my daughter.

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