Madrazo (MEX) and his band of brothers united in defeat
PYEONGCHANG - Images of medallists united on the podium are commonplace but the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games have produced a stirring story of another type: 'three brothers' united in defeat.
When Mexican cross-country skier German MADRAZO finished last in the men's 15km free, nearly 26 minutes behind gold medallist Dario COLOGNA (SUI), he did not feel alone.
Two places ahead in 114th place was his training mate Pita TAUFATOFUA, of Tonga, and a little further up the field in 102nd was the third member of this band of brothers, Yonathan Jesus FERNANDEZ, of Chile.
"I'd rather be finishing towards the end of the pack with all my friends than in the middle by myself," TAUFATOFUA said after Friday's race at the Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre. "We fought together, we finished together."
It was a bond formed in an Austrian chalet they used as a base for an intense two-month independent training camp starting last December.
"When we met while attempting to qualify (for the Games), Pita said he was going to stay in Austria and that if I wanted I could go," said 43-year-old Ironman competitor MADRAZO.
"I didn't know him too well so it was a bit of a rushed decision, but after all I had taken a risky decision also when I started to ski."
The trio stayed in Hittisau for 60 days of "fighting, fighting, fighting every day, and sharing". They trained 10 hours a day and "realised that, without ever needing to ask, lunch and dinner were always ready and the plates were always clean," MADRAZO said. "It was a communication based on deep care and respect.
"We said to each other, 'we probably won't win, but at least we will fight', and that is where Pita's sentence came up, 'We live to fight another day, brother'.
"When we arrived at the finish line (of the 15km free) we said, 'Hey, we fought until the end, brother.' It was a feeling that made me cry, it was the best feeling ever."
Despite finishing last, MADRAZO said he was feeling "incredible" after the race. "I feel like I'm on a cloud. Since the first moment I tried cross-country skiing I fell absolutely in love with this sport."
MADRAZO said the 15km free cross-country race was "way harder" than an Ironman triathlon event because "you are anaerobic the whole time, you are going all-out. And because of the pressure. In Ironman you have all the time to reel your rivals in, you know you are going to get them eventually, over here you only have a few minutes to get them."
The Mexican hopes to inspire young people in his country. "It's not a legacy for winter sports in Mexico, it's a legacy for all Mexican sports," he said.
"It's a message for (kids), like I was when I watched the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games and dreamed of becoming an Olympian, that it is possible, that there is no limit, that you don't have to wait for the government to organise your trainings, or to be from a privileged family.
"It doesn't matter if you are 43 years old, if there is no snow in Mexico, if you don't have the money. You've got to believe in yourself and believe that dreams do come true.
"This is the Olympic spirit, give it all. The medal for us is to make the qualification criteria. The fighting, the going for a goal that seems unattainable.
"We have given it all for the last year and especially the last two months, and look at the prize we've got."