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Lone skier flying the flag for Timor-Leste at Asian Winter Games

22 Feb 2017
Sapporo, Japan, February 22, 2017: After flirting with retirement, Yohan Goutt Goncalves is back on the slopes, flying down the mountain as Timor-Leste’s lone entrant at the 8th Asian Winter Games. Already a national hero after becoming the first person from his snowless Southeast Asian nation to compete at the Winter Olympics, the 22-year old has returned to the sport bigger and better after a brief sojourn.

In the first of two events he has entered at the Asian Winter Games, Goutt Concalves finished an impressive 14th in Wednesday’s giant slalom and still has his best event, the slalom, to come. “It was my childhood dream to go the Olympic Games for Timor and when I went to Sochi it was great,” he said.

“I went to the world championships in 2015 then I took a break for 18 months but my federation called me and said ‘would you like to go to the Asian Games’ and of course I said yes, so I got straight back on skis.”

Goutt Concalves unexpectedly found himself thrust into the spotlight in Sochi as international media warmed to the unlikely story of how a tiny tropical former Portuguese colony could qualify an athlete for the Olympics in alpine skiing.

Goutt Concalves but was born and raised France but chose to represent Timor, the country of his mother’s birth. His mother fled her homeland on a fishing boat in 1975 after Indonesia invaded Timor. She was granted refugee status in Australia and later married a Frenchman and moved to France, where her son was born.

When Timor-Liste became a sovereign state in 2002, the opportunity arose for athletes to represent the country at the Olympics and Goutt Concalves took up the offer in 2014, qualifying on merit. “I was not expecting the reaction I got and it was really satisfying to see so many people being interested in my country,” he said.

“I would like to go to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next year and I’m already very close to qualifying but my goal would is to one day be on the podium at the Asian Games. I think that would great for Timor.”

During his break, Goutt Concalves travelled to Timor to work, helping build a new port in Dili and being involved in a humanitarian project, but is back in France training at a academy run by Croatian coach Daniel Gaspar.

“We think he will qualify for Pyeongchang, everything is going to plan,” Gaspar said.
“He is great to train, and really easy to work with. Anything you ask him to do, he will apply it on the course and in training.” Goutt Concalves qualified in slalom for Sochi but is also targetting giant slalom for Pyeongchang.

To do that, he needs to acieve 140 points under the international federation scoring system and is already well on his way. “I’m happy with my level at the moment,” he said. “I’m improving a lot and my points are getting better. “In giant slalom, I’m not too far away but slalom is very close and and I could qualify here in Sapporo if I do really well.”
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