RIO DE JANEIRO, July 31 (Sports) -- Brazil's judo medal hopeful Maria Portela learned at a young age that nothing in life comes easily.
Having endured the death of her father at the age of six, Portela and her three siblings were raised by their mother in a beaten wooden home with a dirt floor and leaking roof in southern Brazil.
She left home while still a teenager in a bid to pursue a judo career, paying her way by working as a babysitter.
Her first opportunity to represent Brazil came in 2007 and she quickly became a national team mainstay.
Portela's rise up the world ranks reached new heights last year when she won bronze in the 70kg class at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The 24-year-old will make her London Games debut on Wednesday against Colombian Yuri Alvear and thoughts of a medal are already on her mind.buy jordans
"Overcoming difficulty gives us the confidence to take on anything," Portela said.
"I looked after children because I needed a place to stay to follow my dreams. Those families helped me get to where I am today and the last one even secured a sponsor for me.
"I have been so lucky. Things could easily have not worked out. When I compete those people are going to be with me and they're going to make me stronger."