Raquel Kochhann is a modern giant of Brazilian rugby, a bright talent who had never touched a rugby ball until her 19th birthday but within three months was wearing her country’s colours in a university international. 

She has played for Brazil’s sevens and 15s teams, representing As Yaras at two Olympic Games. And she has revelled in her role as a source of inspiration for the next generation of players.

All of this Kochhann took in her stride. No obstacle seemed too big, until, in 2022, a malignant tumour was found in her breast. Rugby was torn from Kochhann; her world was enveloped by doubt and fear.

Kochhann suffered a serious ACL injury during the Toulouse Sevens two years ago and it was while she recovered that a lump in her breast, which doctors had previously believed was benign, doubled in size.

“Cancer wasn’t a shock, given my family’s medical history and genetics (Kochhann’s mother also suffered from breast cancer), and it could have happened at any moment in my life,” she said.

“I went through a preventive bilateral mastectomy and moved to the oncology department. I had to stop my career and went through chemotherapy to prevent the further spread of cancer.


“The doctor said I should keep being physically active, even if I couldn’t play, as it can help recovery. Even if the therapy would bring me down physically, I kept believing I could beat this – and I did.”

Kochhann was sidelined for almost two full seasons but never stopped training, even if all she could manage were a couple of push-ups a day or throwing a few passes.

“It wasn’t easy to stay away from what I loved,” she said. “So, what I did was make everything a win. If I could do five chest press repetitions, I would celebrate. If the doctor said to just do 10 passes, I would do those 10 passes as best as I could. 

“Sometimes they would say just to walk for five minutes, and I would almost lose my mind over it,” she added, laughing.

“If I couldn’t do anything at all, I would help set up practice, be it controlling the drone or talking to my teammates. At one point, I went to talk to a doctor, because I felt they were afraid of letting me play, and I just wanted them to be honest with me, which they were, and said that I would be able to play again.”

This gruelling recovery taught the Brazil totem many lessons, about herself and her sport. She refused to see this time as a desperate period and even asked teammates to joke about it. Being as immersed as possible in the Yaras set-up kept her mind stimulated and her social skills sharp.

“I taught myself to be more patient. Then, I did all the degrees I could that involved sports and rugby. From becoming a referee to honing my skills as a coach, I took a sports teaching degree. It helped me understand the game better, open my mind and grow as a human.

“It was a process. It was an obstacle, like a pre-season or any injury. 

“The team environment helped me massively. When I met my teammates to reveal what was going on, their first reaction was stiff shoulders, sad faces, and silence. I said to them ‘Please, don’t be like that. Laugh, make jokes, I don’t want sadness!’. 

“And then, one of the girls said, ‘I was feeling a bit embarrassed to tell you this, but Raquel, you are going to be even quicker now, as your breasts won’t be in your way!’. It brought a smile to my face, and that was one of the reasons why I recovered so well. They were always by my side, helping me in any way they could. We still joke about it – I think it’s the right way to live life!”

Kochhann not only made a complete recovery, but she was able to pull on the yellow jersey once more. She made her comeback in Perth this year, some 20 months after her diagnosis, and featured again in LA, where she helped Brazil earn their second-best finish in a sevens tournament.


“The HSBC SVNS 2024 Series is the pinnacle of sevens and one of the biggest stages in sport,” she said. “It can be described in one word: elite. Coming back to it was special. 

“I was nervous when I was selected to go to Perth, but those jitters disappeared when I had to be rushed in against Fiji. It was hectic, and I loved every single minute of it. To be part of the 12 best national teams in the sevens scene is massive to help us to be more highlighted in the Brazilian press and sports community.”

Kochhann’s accidental introduction to rugby is almost as striking as the hardship she has since endured. She took up the game at 19 after her local football club shut its women’s section.

“I had the dream of becoming a footballer for my country, wearing the amarelinha [yellow, the main colour of Brazil’s iconic flag] and I started to wonder how I could still live that dream. A teammate told me there was a rugby team in Santa Catarina. I tried it and never left.

“My first training session was at night, on a pitch completely turned to mud and the main focus was tackling. I was properly rugby-baptised that night, after a tackle to the hips, I felt a bit of blood coming down my ear. [But] I had fallen in love with rugby.”

Kochhann’s impact was sudden and compelling. In a few months, she was selected by one of the nation’s top club sides and within a year, the national sevens team in Dubai – her first experience “wearing that beautiful green and yellow jersey”.

“I kept thinking if it was real or if this was just a dream. I was speechless. I remember I had watched a plane flying over our house, saying, ‘One day, I’ll be in one of them with the Brazil national team’.”


Kochhann represented Brazil at the 2016 Rio Olympics, a special and emotional chapter in her life, and not simply because the competition was staged on home soil.

“We started as a 30-player squad, and week after week, the team was getting trimmed, until we were finally 15. A month before the official kick-off, we were brought to an auditorium where the final 12 players were revealed.

“They announced the team one by one, following the number of the jersey order. I was wearing the number 10 shirt at the time, and well, I knew if I was going to be picked, I would be one of the last ones … number eight, number nine, my heart was beating like a drum … and 10! I was in!

“My parents wanted to come and watch me in the Olympics, but unfortunately, my mother had breast cancer and it was impossible for her. But my younger sister, who was always by my side supporting me, couldn’t miss it. She came alone, by bus from Santa Catarina to São Paulo [a 12-hour journey], and stayed with strangers just to be in the stands. 

“I remember being on the pitch and hearing somebody yelling ‘Vai mana, você consegue!’, which means ‘Go sister, you can do it’. Even if I was exhausted, I simply couldn’t fail her, so I kept going.”

Before signing off, Kochhann volunteers a story of communion, respect and kindness, a tale which illustrates how uniquely close-knit the SVNS circuit truly is.

“When I shared an Instagram post stating I had breast cancer, Lucy Mulhall, the Ireland captain, messaged me, sharing her worries and love. She followed my recovery, always sending her best. 

“In Perth, while having a coffee, someone tapped my shoulder. I looked up and it was Lucy. She just hugged me. That shows how special the sevens and rugby community is.”