Skier puts East Timor on Winter Olympics map
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Yohan Goncalves Goutt put East Timor on the Winter Olympics map Saturday night.
By completing both slalom runs under the lights — including a treacherous second leg — the 19-year-old Goncalves Goutt became the Asian country’s first competitor in Winter Games’ history.
Never mind that Goncalves Goutt placed 43rd out of the 43 skiers who completed the race, or that he was nearly 50 seconds behind gold medalist Mario Matt of Austria.
The crowd roared with support for both of Goncalves Goutt’s runs.
And, he said, there was enthusiastic support in East Timor, too.
“I spoke with my mom just before and she told me that there is a big demonstration on the streets, but in a positive way, driving around with the flags saying ‘Go Yohan. Go Yohan,’” Goncalves Goutt told The Associated Press. “It’s just great. I wouldn’t believe I was that kind of star there because there soccer is so big. But now there’s the skiing.”
Goncalves Goutt was born in Paris to a French father and a Timorese mother. He founded East Timor’s ski federation and put together a $75,000 budget to make his Olympic wish happen.
In his only race, Goncalves Goutt did better than the 72 racers who did not finish or were disqualified.
“This was I think the hardest slalom that I did,” he said. “The setting was so complicated. I made it. I’m down now and I’m happy. I’m tired now, really tired. It’s a lot of stress.
“I can’t wait to go see on my phone what is happening now,” he added.
Goncalves Goutt saw his role in Russia as twofold: He’s an athlete, sure, but he’s also a sort of ambassador for East Timor, the impoverished southeast Asian nation that was a Portuguese colony, was invaded by Indonesia in 1975, and became a sovereign state in 2002 after the United Nations intervened.
Shortly before the race, Goncalves Goutt received a message of support from East Timor’s prime minister.
“I was really happy to see that everybody, even the government, is supporting me,” Goncalves Goutt said. “They wished me luck and I think their luck really blessed me tonight.”
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