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Portugal Has Conquered Its First FIS Race Podium

Portugal is not a usual contender for top places in cross-country skiing races. But José Cabeça, a Portuguese athlete who lives in Dubai and occasionally trains in Holmenkollen, has reached the podium for the first time in Portugal’s skiing history. With only two years of skiing, this Portuguese athlete is training to compete against the best.

Photo: Private

Portugal has participated in some of the world’s most important competitions, such as the Winter Olympics and Nordic Ski World Championships. It has even had some recreational athletes training for popular races like Birkebeinerrennet or Vasaloppet. But aiming for a podium place was never a possibility.

But times are changing, and a Portuguese triathlete who has just converted to cross-country skiing is challenging the status quo. José Cabeça only started training cross-country skiing two years ago but managed to be the first Portuguese athlete to conquer a podium position in Greece, in the region of Vitsi Florina. He was second in the 10km freestyle race and third in the 10km classic competition. 

Cabeça had previously been present at the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, conquering the best result ever for Portugal. But that was just the beginning for him because the Portuguese athlete is aiming high, with the help of his coach Ragnar Bragvin Andresen. ProXCskiing talked to the Portuguese athlete to understand how he works towards his dreams.

Congratulations on this achievement. How were the races, and what do these results mean to you?

“Thank you very much. These results mean a lot to me. The two races were held in Greece, and both (classic and skating) had very tough and hilly courses. We raced for 10 km, with an altitude gain of 700 meters and the finishing line was at 1850 meters of altitude. The main challenge was dealing with the technique in classic style because I have less experience with this technique when using rollerskis.”

After such a good performance, what are your goals for the winter?

“My main goal for the winter is to keep improving my technique, and thanks to that, to improve my results, especially in races in Norway and Sweden where the competition is tougher. I am hoping to get as many FIS points during winter as I can get during the summer. And of course, my biggest goals are to be able to start the World Cup and World Championships races at a competitive level.”

You are also a triathlete. How do you balance the training for both sports?

“During summer, I try to have around three rollerskiing sessions a week because the number of necessary specific sessions for triathlon is high. However, sometimes this is not easy to do. For example, last month, I had fewer rollerskiing sessions because I needed to prepare for the Triathlon World Championships. But, with the help of my coach Ragnar Bragvin Andresen, I am getting more experienced, and it gets easier to find the balance.”

How is it to live and train in Dubai? How do locals react when they see you training?

“My training in Dubai is very well structured due to the excellent conditions for training that the region had. Dubai has all the necessary infrastructures for high-level training, and many local habitants have shown interest in Winter Sports. My employer is my main sponsor, and he is very interested in Winter activities. He even goes alpine skiing every time he finds the opportunity.”

How is the relationship with Portugal? Do you find support there?

“Since my qualification for the World Championships, the support from the Portuguese Winter Sports Federation and the Portuguese Olympic Committee has been very good. But in relation to financial support, my only sponsor is my employer in Dubai, who makes this dream possible.”

Finally, how was your experience training in Holmenkollen with your coach?

“Training in Holmenkollen, and most especially with my coach Ragnar Bragvin Andresen was the best decision I could take. Without their support, it would have been impossible to improve my shape so much as I did in only two months of training. But the work has only begun. We have four years until the next Olympics, where I want to compete at the highest level.”

José Cabeça has proposed himself a very challenging project. Being a cross-country skier from a nation that almost does not have snow and especially does not have winter sports traditions. But he has high ambitions and keeps finding the motivation to improve his shape and technique and achieve his goals.

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