By Jim Armstrong, AP
SAPPORO, Japan — For Alpine skier Yohan Goutt Goncalves, the chance to be East Timor’s sole representative at the Asian Winter Games was too good to pass up, even if it meant missing the world championships.
Goutt Goncalves could have taken part in the Alpine skiing world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland but chose instead to travel to Japan to become East Timor’s first athlete at the Asian Winter Games.
“It was more important to come here because East Timor is part of Asia,” Goutt Goncalves said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press. “Timorese people feel closer to the Asian Games than any other event — even the Winter Olympics — so that’s why I chose to come here.”
Born in France, the 22-year-old Goutt Goncalves is the son a French father and his mother is from East Timor, the tiny former Portuguese colony between Australia and Indonesia.
He qualified for the world circuit in 2013 and had no trouble deciding which country to represent when it came to choosing between France and East Timor.
East Timor’s National Olympic Committee was only established in 2007, and two athletes have competed at the Summer Games in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
“My dream of representing Timor came when I was eight,” Goutt Goncalves said. “I wanted to go to the Olympics and I knew it was for Timor because I think it was important to show to the world that there is this country. I think that the contrast of having an athlete that skis but is from a country with no snow makes it special.”