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Sports and inspiration:

the story of Brazilian Paralympic athlete André Cintra

Eduardo Do Valle

Bruna Arcangelo Toledo, Marcio Rodrigues, Getty Images / Illustration: Sérgio Siriguti

Thanks to sports and his will, Brazilian-born André Cintra recovered from a serious accident and participated in Winter Paralympic Games

 

Sometimes, a podium does not define a champion. André Cintra knows this. At the 2018 Winter Paralympics in South Korea, the snowboarder ranked 10th in banked slalom (an event with maneuvers through gates on a medium-pitched slope) – an unprecedented accomplishment for the Brazilian delegation.

 

Without a doubt, an impressive achievement that enters the list of someone who’s used to overcoming obstacles: sporting challenges, adversities, and especially himself. At 17, André saw his life change after a motorcycle accident that cost him a leg, which was amputated just above the knee. For a teenager who loved to skate and surf, it was a hard blow: “I thought my life was over,” he says.

 

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But it was the opposite: sports brought him back. A few months after the accident, André went rafting in Nepal and became active again. Back in Brazil, he became a businessman, adjusting his routine to accommodate the over 10 sports that he practices, including abseiling, cycling, running, and kitesurfing. It was while exercising that he discovered natural wonders like the blue mangroves of San Andrés in Colombia and the long waves of Pacasmayo in Peru. After winning on land and in the water, it was time to spread his wings and take on the world.

 

Snow only appeared later, when he visited a Chilean ski resort in 2009. There, another difficulty: his two prosthetics – regular and for kitesurfing – were inappropriate for the locale. “I couldn’t stand on the board; it was frustrating,” he recounts. To take on the mountain, he had to study parts and put together his own snowboarding prosthetics. In 2010, with suitable equipment, he went back. This time, victorious.

 

Snowboarding became a hobby. With the board, he went to resorts like Corralco and Chillán in Chile and, on one of these adventures, he was discovered by the Brazilian Snow Sports Federation. After a successful test, he was invited to be part of the Brazilian team and train in the United States. Then came world championships, cups, and, just four years after his first snowboarding experience, André took the Brazilian delegation to a Winter Paralympics for the first time, in Sochi, Russia.

 

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“It was a big surprise. If someone had told me, when I lost a leg, that I would be a Paralympic athlete, I would never have believed them,” he says. He faced competitors from traditional countries, like Canada and Slovakia. After competing in 2014, he went back in 2018, for the PyeongChang Games, and was among the 10 best athletes in the world. In his periodical lectures, André rejects the status of victim. “While walking alongside American athletes at the airport, I saw people stopping to applaud them, as if they were heroes,” he recounts. More than just rankings or medals, what moves André is finding strength at each difficult moment. And this is the gold in his story.

 

“If someone had told me that I would be a Paralympic athlete, I would never have believed them”- André Cintra

 

“While walking alongside American athletes at the airport, I saw people applauding, as if they were heroes”- André Cintra