When crossing the finish line in third place in snowboard cross in Gangwon, South Korea, and winning Brazil’s first medal at the Winter Youth Olympics, Zion Bethonico, 17, from Santa Catarina, was unable to hide his frustration.
Despite the unprecedented feat, the athlete from Florianópolis did not like the color of the award.
“I follow the mentality that I am the best at what I do and from the beginning I was absolutely sure that I would return with a medal for Brazil. I thought it would be golden”, said Bethonico to Sheet. “They can say it’s a lack of humility, but that kind of mentality is needed in sport.”
He already knew the main competitors he would face in Asia and felt capable of getting ahead of them. What minimized the irritation with the result was the celebration around him.
“I had been very frustrated, but, seconds later, I heard the celebration of the Brazilian team, my parents and my brother, who were there with me, and the frustration passed very quickly”, he said, honored by the unprecedented nature of his feat. “It was something I only discovered after winning. I had no idea I was first.”
According to Bethonico, an accident a few days before the competition set him back. About a month before the start of the Winter Youth Olympics, he participated in the snowboard cross World Cup stage in Cervinia, Italy.
During training, to avoid running over another competitor who had just crashed in front of him, the Brazilian made a forced detour that threw him against a guardrail. The impact caused his hand to become trapped, resulting in a broken wrist and finger.
Due to the injury, in the days leading up to participating in the Olympics, Bethonico was unable to maintain the physical training load to which he is accustomed.
In snowboard cross, in which competitors descend an inclined surface covered in snow, the initial start to the match makes all the difference to the final result, and the fracture prevented the Brazilian athlete from performing some movements that boost the start.
After the frustration with the result in Korea passed, Bethonico set the goal of reaching the 2026 Winter Olympics, in the adult version. The competition will be held in the cities of Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.
Until then, the planned itinerary involves participating in competitions in the United States and Europe, which will serve as preparation to acquire the necessary experience to qualify to compete for a place in the Olympics in two years’ time.
“I still lack a lot of racing experience and a lot of explosive training for the sprint. I really lack training, training harder, but with effort I’ll get there.”
Living in Canto da Lagoa, in Florianópolis, the young athlete focuses on physical conditioning when he is in Brazil and spends around six months abroad to practice snowboard cross on the snow.
Bethonico became interested in snowboard cross as a child. He traveled with his parents to the United States and practiced the sport, still little known in Brazil. Initially, he acted just for fun.
About to leave adolescence and enter adulthood — he turns 18 next Sunday (28) —, he says that, when he is not training to improve his physical conditioning, his hobbies are surfing, martial arts and online games.