Italo Ferreira is in the final of the world surfing, which will take place in California from Thursday (9). Olympic champion, he tells the UOL Sport who didn’t even rest on his return from Tokyo. “It’s over, now the next goal is to be two-time world champion, that’s the goal. We only rest when it’s all over. After it’s over, I’ll have time to travel, train a little more and rest.”
“Still, winning gold at the Olympics was something amazing. I was focused and I wanted a lot. I knew it would be a unique opportunity. I trained a lot, prepared myself and was very happy. with the waves and I realized that gold was possible. I understood that the odds just got bigger, and I was 100% surrendered to what I’m used to doing.”
When Italo Ferreira set foot on Tsugaraki beach, in Ichimoya, the sun was shining high in the sky and the sea was rough. After a full day of weak waves, the approach of Typhoon Nepartak created the ideal setting for the first surf final in Olympic history. The Japanese Kanoa Igarashi, his opponent, positioned himself at his side.
The Brazilian felt the dark sand and ran towards the ocean. He surfed the first wave, tall and massive, and was knocked over when it started to break. In the fall, it was swallowed by the sea and disappeared for a few seconds. When he surfaced, he was waving his arms toward the beach. The fury of the sea had split his board in half and he was calling for help.
In the waters of the Pacific Ocean, his board had given up at the worst possible time. Igarashi, who had eliminated Gabriel Medina earlier with a cinema air, was already scoring. And the 30 minutes that separated Italo from the Olympic gold had already turned 29.
He soon managed to recover from the scare, encountered a continuous, powerful wave and scored a 7. He turned on the Japanese and never left the lead. The victory came with 15.14 to 6.60, a real ride, if taking a walk at sea was possible.
“Everyone expected that there would only be small waves there. Thank God, there was a storm that gave better waves than the ones I caught training during the week of the competition”, he says.
medal for grandma
“I wish my grandmother was alive to see what I’ve become and what I’ve been able to do. See what I’ve been able to do for my parents, for those around me and I don’t know, I have no words, I just really say thank you.” It was with these words that surfer Italo Ferreira expressed the emotion after winning Brazil’s first gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games, in the sport’s debut at the Olympics.
The grandmother has always been a strong reference in the life of Italo, who cried with emotion after the conquest. When he became world champion in 2019 —becoming compatriot Gabriel Medina in the final—, the native still suffered from the recent loss of Dona Mariquinha, with whom he shared the house and the celebrations. It was even from his grandmother that he was inspired by every wave to win that first big title.
“I had big losses in my personal life and this motivates me because they were people who believed in me a lot. It’s fuel to move forward, he says.
Close to home
Italo was applauded when he returned to the small village of Baía Formosa, where he was born and started surfing. “It was the best thing,” he says. “Being with my friends, enjoying that moment with them, it was amazing. Because they are the ones who were by my side too when I went wrong”.
“When I see the children’s reaction when they meet me, I remember how my reaction was when I met my idols. Living this is something special,” he says.
Before competitions, in an attempt to relax and concentrate, the surfer prefers to be alone listening to music. “If there are people at home, I excuse myself and go to my room. I put on music that makes me super motivated and full of desire. It’s nice to have these ups and downs before the competition”, he says.
When interviewed after the title, Italo recalled the rush he experienced when surfing was not yet a reality in his life. To participate in championships, he asked for money from hotels and inns to complete the help his parents gave him.
In 2011, the American press coined the expression “Brazilian storm” to describe young surfers who were emerging on the international scene. And this generation, under the leadership of Gabriel Medina, who finished the Olympic tournament in fourth place, has just been crowned with Italo’s gold.
Since 2011, when Medina made his debut in the world surfing elite, the circuit has always been filled with Brazilian names, such as Adriano de Souza, Mineirinho, Alejo Muniz, Miguel Pupo and Filipe Toledo.
In 2014, Medina became the first Brazilian world champion and four years later, Brazil already had the majority in the sport’s elite, with 11 participants —compared to eight from Australia and six from the United States, plus four from Hawaii, considered a country apart from the surfing world.