Gabriel Medina, 27, three-times world championship crowns a historic season of Brazilian surfing.
Brazil has four surfers among the best in the world: Medina himself, Filipe Toledo (2nd), Italo Ferreira (3rd) and Tatiana Weston-Webb (runner-up in women). The country owns five of the last seven world titles for men, as well as gold in the sport’s debut at the Olympics, with Italo.
“We couldn’t imagine one day becoming a world surfing power. When I was starting, back there, I remember we were celebrating ninth place, being fifth was absurd!”, he tells sheet.
Despite the good results, the Brazilian admits that it was an atypical season. He changed coach, had controversies with the Olympic Committee in Brazil because of his wife Yasmin Brunet, then lost a stage of the Worlds for not being vaccinated — some topics he prefers not to comment. Finished with the trichampionship.
“Since I became champion for the first time [em 2014], the next goal was to be tri, like my references, Ayrton Senna, Pelé and Mick Fanning”, he says.
TO sheet, Medina also showed concern with the situation of the Brazilian Surfing Confederation and with the grassroots work in the sport. He admitted that athletes can do more to improve the situation and stated that he is willing to talk to the next generations of Brazilian surfing.
You had a troubled season, despite the good results. It was her first year without Charles, her stepfather and former coach, her first marriage to Yasmin Brunet. Controversy took place at the Olympics and all this during a pandemic. Now, ending up with the world title, how do you assess your season? All in all, it was an unusual year. It’s very difficult for you to constantly keep yourself balanced, both physically and mentally. In performance it was my best year, I made practically all the finals and ended up with the title. And it was a year of great changes. I started working with the [treinador] Andy King, a guy I met through Mick Fanning, and that has helped me a lot in and out of the water. It was also a year that I traveled with my wife [a modelo Yasmin Brunet]. I think it served for me to mature, to know that I know how to get by, do my things, take on this responsibility for my daily life.
I like challenges, but this year I was tested in many ways. What I get out of this best is that I managed to be patient, calm, have this coolness to focus on the biggest objective, regardless of the adversities and personal problems I experienced.
How was the post-Olympics period for you? Of course I wanted to be in the final of the Olympics with Italo, I prepared a lot, I did what I could, but every championship, when you win or lose, from that moment on it’s starting all over again, always thinking positively. Even after the Olympics, when I lost at the pool, these are sad moments when you appreciate the opportunity and know that one day it will all make sense. Yesterday, for me, it all made sense. We have to live the process of life, and in life it’s not just victories. In fact, defeat is when you learn the most.
The result is detail, obviously I love winning, it’s the best feeling for a sportsman, but we have to know how to deal with defeat, fair or unfair.
Do you consider the world title a redemption after the Olympics? I think one thing is one thing, another thing is another. The world title has always been my professional goal since I became champion for the first time. [em 2014]. The next goal was to be tri, like my references, Ayrton Senna, Pelé and Mick Fanning. Big guys I look up to. And I wanted to reach their numbers [todos três vezes campeões mundiais em seus esportes].
Brazil got the Olympic gold with Italo, placed four of the six best surfers in the world considering men and women and finished with its three-time championship. What does the year 2021 represent for Brazilian surfing? We couldn’t imagine one day becoming a world surfing power. When I was starting, back there, I remember that we were celebrating a ninth place, being fifth was absurd! of course now [ser potência] it demands even more from us, because today being second is not enough, the brazilian people are strict about it. But I’m happy to be part of this team of Brazilians. And of course, we are very grateful to the previous generation, it’s a job of years. I don’t know why it was our generation that “grew”, but it was the work of years, of many who tried and prepared this moment. And the new generation that is coming, which has more Medinas, Italos, Filipes…
How to keep Brazil at the top of surfing? As I had inspiration, examples that I wanted to follow, I think this is the strength of the sport, it encourages and gives you direction, motivation. It’s very funny to see the kids [mais nova] looking, asking, they are curious and we serve as an example. Seeing a kid say he wants to be world champion, having that dream is very good for our country
The Brazilian Surfing Confederation is going through turbulent days, with a president who had his election challenged, but who managed to win the battle in court. Among Brazilian surfers, do you comment on this subject? What is your understanding of it? In fact, we don’t talk a lot [sobre isso]. Of course, I always hear the news. In my view, for the sport as it is today, for those who live this routine [do surfe], there’s not much opportunity, this is the real big deal. In my time, I had several opportunities for competitions and championships to feed this competitive side of me and have the chance to know if this was what I really wanted in my life. And I see today that the work with the base is a little bad.
But it’s something we don’t talk about, to be honest. I even think we should talk more. Of course it’s not our obligation, we’re actually athletes and during the year we focus on the title, event by event, so we’re barely at home. But it’s something we could pay more attention to. And although I have this opinion, I’m here to talk and look for the best for the new generation.
What can you athletes do about this situation you described? I think the union is the first thing. Come together and see if we have a voice. Because I don’t know exactly how this political part works. But I’m willing, with Italo, Filipe, in the few opportunities we had to talk about. We are always interested in helping. And if I can help in any way, I’m willing, as long as I’m on the right side, for the best in surfing.