Portugal doesn”t have a big tradition of winter sports, but the country has at least two athletes aiming to reach the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022, even if their preparation is on wheels.
25-year-old José Cabeça’s has achieved what no one had ever done before: a performance at a world championship that allows him to represent Portugal in a cross-country skiing event in Beijing.
Not bad for someone who learnt to ski in just one year in order to fulfil his Olympic dream.
“People ask – how is it possible that in one year he goes from not being able to ski to be in a position to make it to the Olympics and become the first Portuguese to qualify through the world championships?” says Cabeça.
“There’s a lot of hard work for several years, obviously not in skiing. Triathlon has played a key role. I’ve managed to learn, little by little and all by myself. I don’t have a skiing coach. I’ve learnt with other athletes and by watching videos.”
Cabeça started his cross-country skiing adventure about a year and a half ago in France, where he lived for two and a half months to “be able to train”, because “it is impossible in Portugal”.
A few months later, in February this year, he reached the high point of his early career in the sport, with a score at the Nordic World Ski Championships in Germany, that opened a spot for Portugal at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
From roller to ice speed skating
Diogo Marreiros is a silver medalist in the 10km roller speed skating world championships. He switched to ice to fulfil his Olympic dream.
Currently, he trains almost every day in Lagos on one of the two tracks suitable for this sport in the region and he’s positive about the challenge of training conditions for winter sports in Portugal.
“At this time of year, ice speed skaters travel to warm countries and keep their form with lots of cycling and roller skating. Being far is not a big problem as all the skaters are currently away from the ice,” says Marreiros.
Marreiros first put skates on at the age of four and won his first European Championship medal at 16.
The 29-year-old skater has accumulated medals on wheels ever since, including European vice-champion and the world vice-champion 10km Pontos.
Over the last four years, he has been preparing over the winter season in Germany and the Netherlands, where he has been improving his “technique and physical shape,” allowing him to “qualify for the world cups” scheduled for the end of the year.
He’s even launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund his preparation on ice and train in the Netherlands.
His ranking in the world cups taking place over four weekends in a row in Poland, Norway, Canada and the United States from 14 November to 14 December will determine if he will be in China in February.