Eric_lacaixa
27 Dec 2012 1 comment Redacció

Eric Villalon: “As a child I always wanted to go first, like everyone else”

Although now retired, Eric Villalon Fuentes is the Spanish Paralympic skier with the best track record. After participating in three Paralympic Games and win five gold medals, three silver and one bronze he continues to work for equal rights, from his seat on the Catalan Federation of Sports for the Blind and Visually Impaired, because, despite having a 5% vision, he feels like “one more” and it shows by way of example.

How did you prepare for the Paralympic Games?

I usually started prepping in late April. A typical day, for me, started at 4 am. I jogged to work and at 5 pm, after work I went to the gym until 10 pm. This, from Monday through Friday. At the gym I did the usual anaerobic and aerobic training for skiers. Then, when the money permitted, or the team, I went to the mountain for one week at a time: One in July, another in late September, one in October and one in November. After that, in December I took one month off to live in La Cerdanya (in the Pyrenees). I trained in La Molina ski resort: technical aspects in the morning, and more physical stuff in the afternoon. In January, when competitions began, I also worked in maintenance, loading and unloading until April. You see, while training like any other pro athlete, I had to keep my regular job to pay the mortgage. This was my training for eight, nine or ten years. Luckily now this has changed.

Eric Villalon at a press conference.

What has changed?

Well, now there is what’s called an ADO Plan. With this program, if you get good results in competitions, the government provides you with a monthly stipend, which allows you to focus on training and competition.

Did you get any grants?

Me? In 2004 we won the World Championship in all four categories of alpine skiing, and the World Cup in slalom. To give you an idea, that year I got 2.400 Euros from the grant by ARC. When I finished my career I got 6.000 Euros. I flipped out. Now that I am leaving high level competition is when the money arrives. So you can see the difference: A Spanish athlete competing in the Olympic Games gets paid, I believe, 60.000 Euros while participants in the Paralympic Games, receives only 8.000.

Why did you start skiing?

As it happens to a lot of skiers, family is a big influence. We all skied. I started when I was only three years old. Sport was something we did all the time so, I inherited the passion for it, I guess. I was very fortunate that I was treated like everyone else. I’ll always be grateful for that.

Eric Villalon in the Paralympic Winter Games in Nagano in 1998.

When did you decide to compete?

By chance, when I was 22 years of age. At that time I was doing alpine skiing, trekking, ice climbing… Snow was part of me, but hadn’t been on a competing environment yet. At 22 I was introduced to the head coach of the Paralympic ski team. He liked how I was skiing, and asked me to join the team. I said I was going to try to ski with someone before me, a guide. Something I had never done before. Actually, I had. Sort of. As a child, when skiing with other kids, I always wanted to go first, like everybody else. What happened is that when I managed to get to the front of the group, I automatically slowed down because I saw nothing. So all the kids would pass me. I realized it was easier to follow them. But I tried to be the first, again and again. I guess it was a simple way of using a guide without being aware of it.

How do you rate your track record?

I consider myself like a stepping-stone for others. If I had not won my nine Paralympic medals plus World Championship medals and the rest of other competitions, most likely, nobody would have had the strength to go to the National Sports Council and ask for more means of support.

 

Both the main photography and the one featuring Eric at a press conference are courtesy of Obra Social de La Caixa, sponsor of South Pole without limits.

The photograph of the Nagano Paralympic Games is part of the archive of the Catalan Federation of Winter Sports.

Comments

  1. Jaume Villalón i Cánovas (Català) va dir això el 31 Dec 2012

    Continua sempre amb aquesta trajectoria tan humana, una forta abraçada del teu pare

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