PyeongChang 2018: My Games Experience – The athlete

The Games’ youngest Paralympian Cristian Ribera reflects

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To mark one month since the PyeongChang 2018 competition, “My Games Experience” series brings you behind-the-scenes memories of the biggest event in winter Para sport.

While PyeongChang 2018 was an unforgettable experience, Cristian Ribera could not wait to return home.

The Paralympic Winter Games’ youngest Paralympian had a debut to remember when he finished sixth in the men’s cross-country long distance sitting. At just 15 years old, his performance showed promise for the years to come.

But at 15, Ribera admitted it was also good to return to Brazil.

“I was missing my family and my friends a lot, so it is really good to be back home,” he said. “The reception was very exciting. When I arrived at the airport, my family and my friends were already there, waiting for me to celebrate together.

“Since I am back home, a lot of people congratulated me and talked to me for interviews. This recognition is very nice.”

Ribera took up Nordic skiing after participating in a workshop in Brazil organised by the Agitos Foundation, the development arm of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), and the Snow Sports Brazilian Confederation in 2015.

With his swimming and athletics background, Ribera excelled in Nordic skiing. He took on competitions in Oberried, Germany; and Vuokatti, Finland during the season.

But the Games were a lot different than those two World Cups.

“This experience was unforgettable, because it is very exciting when your dreams come true with just 15 years old,” he said. “I think that what I liked the most was seeing different people winning medals.”

Knowing he would be in a different environment, compared to what he is accustomed to in Brazil, Ribera was bracing for the worst.

“The biggest challenge was adapting to the place. We all expected a colder weather, but it was the opposite,” he said. “We were prepared for cold and when I got there it was 15 degrees, very different from when we were training in the snow before.”

Now that he knows his potential, Ribera is motivated to train harder for Beijing 2022. He will continue to practice swimming and athletics, and train on the roller ski.

“I need to keep focus on my trainings to evolve and consequently go to the next Paralympic Winter Games with more experience and ready for new challenges,” he said.

But at 15, he is not your typical high-performance athlete.

Coming back home means returning to school.

He hopes his performance in PyeongChang inspired others in Brazil to try winter sports.

“I think and I hope [I inspired others], because my results gave more visibility to the sport in the Brazilian media, despite of there was almost no media covering during the Games,” he said.

“The most important thing is to have the resources to invest in snow sports because the equipment is very expensive and necessary.”