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From surfing with styrofoam lids to Olympic gold: the inspiring story of Brazilian Italo Ferreira

After a heartfelt hug with two members of his team and many happy tears, Italo Ferreira was pulled out of the water on his shoulders. At 27, the Brazilian, from the impoverished northeast of Brazil, became the first Olympic surfing champion on Tuesday and won the first gold medal for his country at the Tokyo Games.

The imminent arrival of Typhoon Nepartak made the Tsurigasaki Sea, some 100 kilometers south of Tokyo, the perfect setting for competing in this debut sport in an Olympics.

But after the first wave, the Brazilian’s table was split in two when attempting to perform a maneuver. Seconds later, Italo I swam to the sand to get a new one and return to the sea determined to make history.

“When you stop to think about your story and where you come from …”, a journalist from Or Balloon in an interview shortly after his victory. He could not finish the sentence.

Italo began to cry disconsolate, covered his eyes with his hands. Even the journalist’s voice broke with excitement.

“My intention is to help people, my family (…) I wish my grandmother was alive to see this. I am very happy to see what I have become, because of what I did for my parents. I always asked for this dream to come true and it happened, “he assured. But who is and where does this man that everyone talks about today in Brazil come from?

Passion since childhood

Italo was born in Baía Formosa, a city of 8,000 inhabitants, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, known for its natural beauty and almost desert beaches. As in the whole country, soccer is one of the favorite sports of young people there, but surfing is almost on par.

He was eight when he fell in love with the sport, but he didn’t get his first board until he was 10. Until then he used to surf with borrowed boards and with the polystyrene lids of the refrigerators where his father stored his fish to sell.

Since he got on that first table, Italo has been conquering titles, and in 2019 he rose as world champion of the World Surf League (WSL) in Hawaii, becoming the third Brazilian to do so.

“When you come from below, when you have difficulties, one has more will, more claw, more determination. It has not been different with me, “he said.

Without forgetting his city, his roots and his people, the surfer, who has become a model and inspiration for the young people of Baía Formosa and all over Brazil, recalled that the Italo Ferreira Institute is underway to help children in situation vulnerability through this sport.

“With this opportunity I will be able to contribute a little more to the evolution of this new generation. To be able to have these boys in the institute, teach them and show them that it is possible, that they can also achieve their goal“, he assured.

And that project already has its headquarters: the house where his grandmother, Dona Mairiquinha, lived, who died two years ago, the great inspiration of this athlete who on Tuesday, already become a legend, dedicated his Olympic gold to him.

Marta Miera

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