Born in 1969, in Paraná, Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima is the seventh son of a family of humble origins. As a child, he worked as a day laborer, and, running through fields, discovered his aptitude for long-distance running. He was a professional marathoner from 1992 to 2008, representing Brazil in three Olympic Games, three Pan American Games and a few World Championships. In 2004 in Athens, he realized his greatest dream: an Olympic medal. He was also awarded the prestigious Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship. After ending his athletic career, he went in search of another dream: the Institute Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, which he founded in 2008, providing practical recreational athletics, combined with educational and cultural activities for children and adolescents aged 8 to 18 years.
In 2016 Vanderlei was once again eternalized in the history of the Olympic Games, lighting the Olympic cauldron in Rio de Janeiro.