Champion Steps

por | Nov 29, 2020 | News

When he was 5 years old , Juan was able to walk for the first time. The sequels resulted from a cerebral palsy,  couldn’t beat the strength of a dream. At FUN we supported you from the beginning. As you prepare for the National Paracycling Championships in Boyacá, we tell  your amazing story.

Juan Betancourt is 21 years old and is getting ready to participate in  the National Paracycling Championships on December 2nd & 3rd in Santa Rosa, Boyacá. It will be his first competition after the 2019 Bolivar National Games, where he won two golden medals. Some of his achievements are five golden medals, one silver and one bronze. Positive attitude, winning mindset and a big heart like the ocean, the ingredients of the recipe. His life is magic and  represents what FUN means. Juan is a loving, cheerful, noble, generous person. He was born in Funza, Cundinamarca, on July 15, 1999 with cerebral palsy. Regardless of this disability, from a young age he looks at life face to face and with a smile.

«According to the doctors I was destined for a wheelchair. We did all kinds of therapies. echinotherapy, hydrotherapy, massages. It was a hard process. However, as parents we always thought he would succeed. He put a lot of himself, enthusiasm, courage, strength», said  Maria Esther Quiroga, his mother. She and José Sander Betancourt, his father, have been his biggest support.

«I love them. They are my motivation. I was always supported and encouraged,» said Juan. As a child, when his  goal was to be able to walk, they gave him a red tricycle that would strengthen the therapies. Besides being a plastic toy that made him happy, the tricycle was a therapeutic element, it became a premonitory symbol. His fate was written. At age 5, the age at which children climb trees, Juan walked for the first time. As a teenager I used to ride a bike on a recreational basis from time to time. I didn’t know that disabled cyclists should use a special cycle. He knew that later.

A fall in shape of  jump

At 14 he entered the CicloFunza academy. Nadia González Barrera, a trainer and methodologist, helped him a lot. In 2017 Alejandra, his sister and friend, told him that the team of the Esteban Chaves Foundation was going to organize some trial outs. It seemed a good idea to participate. «This is your chance,» she said. «We know that getting into a sport like this requires money. It’s a foundation that can help him fulfill his dreams», said his sister.

«We can say that I snuck in», Juan confessed with a hidden smile. He passed to the second filter. He did it on a conventional bike. A fall revealed his disability, which was going unnoticed. After the call at FUN his desire to improve and his desire to be a professional bike rider propelled him like a rocket to the moon. That bump had a positive effect: he tested the power of his will. He met Héctor Julio Mayorga, former bike rider and coach of the Cycling League of Cundinamarca, his mentor: «In 2017 when Juan was 18 years old, together with Nadia we discovered his talent. We did some tests of gymkhanas, cones, water bottles. He rode a steel bike, heavy and small. His skill was spectacular». There began the process of development for late science.

At the same time, at FUN we began to support him. Our first contribution was to acquire the chassis to assemble the tricycle he was supposed to use. For Esteban Chaves, co-founder of FUN and professional cyclist of the Australian professional team Michelton Scott, Juan is an admirable person: «The fact of advancing in the filters of those trial outs  was revealing. We realized that he had a lot of talent. Learning a little more about of his story surprised us. Despite the difficulties he experienced as a child he never stopped pursuing his dreams. It’s an example of resilience, that virtue we always talk about in FUN. That’s why I admire him so much».

After a lot of work and an iron will, today he is the best Paralympic bike rider in Colombia and the fifth best in the world in the T2 category, one of the branches in which Paralympic cycling is divided according to disability. In this case, cerebral palsy affects the balance and establishes competing on tricycle.

In 2017 at the National Paracycling Championships in Tocancipá he won his first gold medal on route. In 2018 at the National Paracycling Championships in Bogota he obtained silver on route and bronze in individual time trial (ITT). In 2018 he qualified for the first time to the World Cup in the Netherlands. That was his first trip abroad. He finished eighth in ITT general standings and ninth in route. The 2019 season has so far been the best: it was crowned in the National Paracycling Championship in Villavicencio with two golds: route and ITT. He also competed in the World Championships in the Netherlands: fifth in route and eighth in ITT. And he made his debut in the National Games in Bolivar. Harvested two gold, route and Individual time trial.

Next to Néstor Ayala (Bogotá) and Heriberto Gutiérrez (Cauca) receiving their medals in the Bolivar National Games 2019.   📸  Ministerio del Deporte      

«I had a hidden talent, very discreet», said Juan. «Seeing my results, I feel happy, because at first I couldn’t even walk. I never thought my process would go that fast, «added this man who makes himself loved and who has a weakness for dogs. His goal is to have a foundation to rescue street dogs and put them for adoption. In sport he dreams of qualifying and winning an Olympic Games and also of being world champion.

For now, he is focused on the National Paracycling Championship in Boyacá. He is working hard with his coach Carlos Omar of GoCycling and he goes step by step, like that time when his only goal was to walk, or when he was riding, meter by meter, on his wonderful tricycle. «I want to win. For that I keep  improving with daily work. I want to continue fulfilling dreams», said Juan.