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Michel Macedo: From the tropics to the slopes

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Although he’s now resident in the USA, the Winter Youth Olympian is proudly racing this week in the colours of his South American homeland, Brazil.

Michel Macedo first experienced the joy of snow after his family moved north from Brazil to the United States. Following an appearance at the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Lillehammer 2016, the slalom specialist makes his Olympic debut this week in PyeongChang – one of just nine Brazilians competing in the Republic of Korea.

Out of the tropics

Snow in Brazil isn’t a complete novelty. Elevated areas in southern parts of the country get some snow fairly regularly, and the snow-covered hills and high plains can be a spectacular sight.

Even so, the country’s mostly tropical climate doesn’t encourage winter sports such as Alpine skiing – and Fortaleza, the north-eastern coastal city where Macedo was born in 1998, has never seen so much as a single snowflake. That’s hardly surprising: it sits just 250 miles south of the Equator.

But when Macedo was three years old, his family moved north to the US city of Portland, Oregon so his father could attend chiropractic school. While the temperature in Fortaleza averages around 27˚C (80˚F) all year round, Oregon is much chillier and sees plenty more snow – so it was no surprise when Michel and Tobias, his elder brother, hit the slopes as children.

Rising through the ranks

The brothers both took to skiing with great skill and dedication, rising quickly through the local ranks. In 2012, Tobias competed in both the slalom and the giant slalom at the first-ever Winter YOG in Innsbruck, one of just two Brazilians who made the trip to Austria. And then four years later, Michel followed in his footsteps, finishing 15th in the Super-G in Lillehammer.

Macedo is one of just eight Alpine skiers from South America at the Games, but he’s not the only one with Winter YOG experience. Kai Horwitz, a Chilean skier, and Michael Poettoz, a Colombian-born slalom specialist, also competed at the Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016. Both are in PyeongChang – and Poettoz is set to become just the second skier in Olympic history to represent Colombia at the Winter Games.

Battling injury

Macedo’s PyeongChang trip hasn’t gone entirely according to plan. Shortly before the Games began, he fell during training and injured his knee, putting his participation in doubt. But he’s now all set to compete in the Super-G this Friday, completing one of the most unlikely journeys at this year’s Olympic Winter Games.

Michel Macedo competes in the men’s Super-G on Friday 16 February.

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