Paralympic champion Alan Fonteles seeks a fresh start in his career
– My exit was always the slowest. Even in London, I don’t know why, but it was one of the slowest I’ve ever done, right? Every step I took, in my head came “don’t give up, don’t give up, don’t give up”. ! – recalled Alan Fonteles.
Alan Fonteles celebrates gold at London 2012 — Photo: Anna Gowthorpe/Getty Images
– It was the moment in which Brazil, for me, stepped in the door of the gringos and said: “Man, we are protagonists!” – explained Andrew Parsons, president of the Brazilian Paralympic Committee (CPB) at the time and current president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
In just 21.45, the party’s protagonist was eclipsed by a young man unknown to the race’s narrators, who, surprised, could only say at the end of the 200m: “Oh, my God, Oscar Pistorius lost.”
– They were introducing the athletes on the live broadcast, showing the eight lanes, but they kept talking about Pistorius when the camera went to Alan. They ignored Alan, didn’t even mention his name. When he [Alan] wins, was the best reaction, because the narrator was disconcerted, he didn’t know what to say. Nobody was prepared for Pistorius not to win that race – recalled the president of the IPC.
Oscar Pistorius during his participation in the Olympics – Photo: Eric Feferberg/Getty Images
Oscar Pistorius’ face was all over the newspapers, billboards and had already caused a stir when he was among the Olympic athletes in the 400m sprint round. He was the first bi-amputee sportsman to participate in an edition of the Olympic Games. Alan, on the other hand, was still little known, but the rise from anonymity to fame was all too rapid.
– From that victory there, at the Olympic Stadium in London, the world began to see Alan with different eyes. For us it is a source of great pride! -remembered his father, Almir Fonteles.
Before becoming champion at London 2012, Alan had secured a silver in the 4×100 relay, but no individual medal. In 2013, at the World Cup in Lyon, France, he arrived as the man to beat, and Oscar Pistorius wasn’t there for a rematch. The South African was in prison awaiting trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Alan took the opportunity to break the world record in the 200m and conquer the highest place on the podium in the 100m and 400m.
Alan Fonteles at the 2013 Lyon Athletics World Cup — Photo: Marcio Rodrigues / Mpix / Cpb
But the light of the flashes and spotlights dazzled the vision of that young man of only 20 years. Alan was at his peak, but the choice was to leave the scene and step away from the track for a sabbatical. The news was received with surprise and fear by the technical team that had followed him since the first competitions.
– Today, maybe I would have told him that he should have been more focused, he shouldn’t have worried so much about the media, about the spotlight. There was a lot of light around him, I think he wasn’t prepared for so much light on him – said Amaury Veríssimo, Alan Fonteles’ former coach.
It was 365 days, a year, stopped. Alan gained weight, slowed down and lost the title of champion in 2015, when he returned to the Worlds. In Doha, Qatar, he took silver in the 200m, American Richard Browne won the race. Time passed and along with it a new perception emerged, Alan believes that stopping was a mistake.
– It was all, Alan here, Alan there. These are things in the athlete’s life, and today I analyze and confirm that I didn’t know how to deal with that. That’s when I stopped and took that whole turnaround. I thought it was the right decision to make, but, patience, today I see that it wasn’t and now it is to continue a new job – confessed Alan.
In an attempt to start over after poor results at the Rio 2016 Games and Tokyo 2021, the Paraense decided to change coaches and cities. Alan went in search of Pedro Almeida, coach of two-time Paralympic champion Petrúcio Ferreira. On the track at the Federal University of Paraíba, in João Pessoa, Alan is improving his technique and regaining his confidence to compete at a high level.
– His return to competition is important from an emotional and psychological point of view. I see him evolving every day, every month, we create a relationship of trust in search of a bigger project – said the new coach, Pedro Almeida.
Since September 2021, when he returned from Tokyo without a medal in his suitcase, the sprinter has not competed. The return was in the CPB/CBAT Challenge in July this year, an event that brought together Paralympic and Olympic athletes. Alan didn’t want a medal now, but to gain pace towards a bigger goal: to compete in the fifth Paralympics of his career in Paris 2024.
– I didn’t forget what I did, but I started over from scratch, as if I were a new athlete. I am very focused and very dedicated to the Paris project. I’m working really hard to be there!