Brazil star Raquel Kochhann has vowed to return “stronger, faster and with more motivation” as she prepares to pull on the Brazil jersey for the first time in 20 months in Perth, following treatment for breast cancer.
Two-time Olympian Kochhann has not appeared on the series since suffering a serious knee injury during Brazil’s 31-7 defeat of England in Toulouse in May 2022.
It was during her recovery from that injury that Kochhann received her diagnosis. She underwent chemotherapy and the cancer is now dormant and controlled, although she continues to receive treatment.
“I injured my knee in France, in the last [pool] game against England, so I needed a surgery and after the surgery I discovered a cancer,” Kochhann told World Rugby.
“I passed the last year doing all the treatments against the cancer and now I’m here ready to play again. Stronger, faster and [with] more motivation.”
Feeling the love of the team
Despite undergoing invasive treatment to combat the cancer, Kochhann never stopped training with the squad and she says the support of her team-mates has been integral to her recovery and return to the pitch.
“After making a therapy sometimes my body was feeling a little bit down but my team-mates, the whole group, all picked me up again and every time I stayed with them and tried to do everything that was possible every time; train and be part of the group,” Kochhann explained.
“My team-mates are incredible, every time they made the process light. So, they helped me in the whole environment, so if I needed something; to go to the doctor or inside the field or when I came back to train, extra training, I had their support the whole time.
“So, I have an incredible group that support me with everything I need, and they make me stronger to be here again.”
Kochhann’s return to the Brazil squad and HSBC SVNS 2024 was confirmed on Thursday when she was handed her gold number 10 jersey for the first time in nearly two years at the team hotel in Perth.
The jersey presentation featured a recorded video message from Brazil’s former physio, Beatriz Da Silva Rodrigo, who accompanied Kochhann on her journey to recovery.
“It’s hard to explain [my] feelings because there are a few, but I’m really happy,” Kochhann said. “This is what I’ve wanted since I [got injured].
“I never wanted to be out, I always wanted to be inside the team and I’m really happy that I can be part of this again.
“This is a really special moment because, for me, this represents our country. Since I was a child, my dream was wearing this yellow jersey. So, for me, it’s the biggest thing in the world to represent our country.”
Playing every game like it's her last
Kochhann is determined to help her team-mates continue their promising start to the SVNS season in Perth but says she just wants to enjoy being back; “to be happy on the field”.
“Every time I say to my team-mates that we need to play every game like it can be our last game. So, this is the feeling. Every time we step on the field, we give our best because we never know when our last game can be,” she added.
“It’s a big honour to wear this jersey and represent our country in every tournament, every competition. It can be a South American tournament or the World Cup or an Olympic Games. Every game counts a lot and I’m really proud to be part of this team.”
And she has a message for people who may be going through similar struggles as she has over the last two years. “Everything is possible when we want [it] and we really work for it,” Kochhann said.
“Nothing is so big that we can’t step up, so just keep living, enjoy all the moments and be happy. This is the most important, enjoy your life.”