Gabriel Medina (BRA), the 2018 World Surf League Men's World Champion finally arrived in Brazil to a hero's welcome at the airport in São Paulo. With the title trophy raised above his head, Medina was greeted by media, fans waving flags, young members from the Gabriel Medina Institute (IGM) and even a group of percussionists leading the crowd in celebratory chants in Portuguese.
Coincidentally touching down in Brazil on his 25th birthday, following a press conference in downtown São Paulo, Medina commemorated his second World Title and his victory at the Billabong Pipe Masters surrounded by family, friends and celebrities such as superstar soccer player Neymar Junior at a private party.
On Sunday, Medina finally made it to his hometown of Maresias where the Mayor of São Sebastião, Felipe Augusto, prepared a parade which had their local idol riding atop a firetruck down the main avenue lined with adoring fans. The parade ended at the town square where Medina took to the stage with his family to address the large audience.
"Thank you everyone for coming out and for cheering me on…I'm really at a loss for words but it feels incredible to be welcomed home like this," said Medina. "I'm just a kid from Maresias that had big dreams. I've worked really hard to achieve my goals and I'm grateful to be living my dream. I have so much gratitude and I'm thankful for all of you. I have so much love for Maresias and it's an honor to represent the city and Brazil."
Visibly emotional, Medina continued his sentiments about Maresias.
"This is where I've always lived. I spend the entire year traveling to contests but this is where I always return to. It's where everything started, where I have my friends and family. It's where I train and surf every day. I remember surfing right in front of this square my entire childhood. Being here and being welcomed like this is so special. It's a feeling I will never forget," concluded Medina.
During the press conference on Saturday, Medina was able to speak to the largest media outlets in Brazil and elaborated on his second WSL World Title. When asked about the difference between his first title in 2014 and his most recent accomplishment, he said:
"I think that everything that was happening in my life in 2014 was just a very new experience. After winning the first Title, it seemed like the pressure was gone and I was able to relax and enjoy the moment with my friends and family on some trips we took. This year I looked back on everything I had to do in 2014 to win the Title and I knew that I needed to do everything right in Hawaii to become a World Champion in 2018."
Reflecting on the "Brazilian Storm" and the current state of Brazilians dominating the surf world, Medina declared, "The talent level in Brazil is off the charts. We've got a third of the athletes on the Championship Tour, we clinched three World Titles and we won nine out of eleven events this year. Each year the Brazilians are surfing better and I feel honored to be apart of this group and to have made history in our sport and our country."
Despite his illustrious accomplishments, Medina still has lofty goals set on the horizon.
"This year was extremely important and my goal was to win my second World Title. 2019 is going to be just as important. It's going to be the year we get the chance to qualify for the Olympics in 2020 and my objective since the start of my career is to become a 3x World Champion. But now it's time to relax (laughs). I'm thrilled to be home and to be welcomed in Brazil with so much love. It's been priceless and now I'm going to go have some fun because soon the whole process will be starting over," ended Medina.