Brazilian bobsled athletes to visit Tupper Lake in March

Little Italy restaurant to host public meet and greet

The Brazilian four-man bobsled team competes in Lake Placid during the IBSF World Cup on Dec. 21, 2022. (Enterprise photo — Parker O'Brien)

TUPPER LAKE — Little Italy restaurant and Bobsleigh-Brazil will host a public meet and greet with members of the team on March 2, four days before Brazil competes in the North American Cup in Lake Placid.

The restaurant’s doors will open for the event at 5 p.m. when the public can talk to the athletes, take photos and get autographs. The four-man team that competed in the 2022 Beijing Olympics — Edson Ricardo Martins, Edson Bindilatti, Rafael Souza da Silva and Erick Gilson Vianna Jeronimo — will be there, as well as two Olympic hopefuls.

“They’re some of the friendliest people I’ve met,” owner of Little Italy in Tupper Lake Ted Desmarais said.

He and his family befriended the team when they moved from Tupper Lake to Lake Placid six years ago. That year, he and his wife Vanessa Desmarais, who is Brazilian, met the now president of the Brazilian Ice Sports Confederation Matheus Figueiredo and his partner Bruna. The Desmarais family began spending time with the team and quickly formed a strong bond. Now, whenever the team is around, they host the athletes at their home or restaurant, whichever works best at the time.

“It sort of became a ritual thing,” Desmarais said.

From left are Brazilian bobsledders Erick Vianna, Gustavo Ferreira, Rafael da Silva and Onias Mirbel. (Provided photo — Paulista Ice Sports Club)

When the team is in town, the family shows them “the ropes of the Adirondacks.” Desmarais described a time when the family and the team took to his side-by-side with a pulling rope and kneeboard to drag one another around through the snow.

According to Vice President of Paulista Ice Sports Club Felipe Braun, the team originally planned to host an all-day event, where people could experience a day with the bobsled team. However, that event was too costly. That’s when they called Desmarais to ask about holding an event at the restaurant, where they would invite people from Tupper Lake to meet the team. Desmarais agreed. Half of all money made from restaurant sales during the event will go to the team.

“I have the opportunity to do it, they’re friends of mine; what are friends for?” Desmarais said.

Both Braun and Desmarais described the importance of events like this for Team Brazil. Desmarais pointed out that countries like Brazil are at a disadvantage compared to bigger Olympic countries, which have more monetary support and better access to training facilities and athlete housing.

As a tropical country, Brazil is not as recognized for its winter sport achievements as countries like the U.S. or China, Braun said.

Brazilian bobsledders Erick Vianna, left, and Gustavo Ferreira prepare for a run. (Provided photo — Paulista Ice Sports Club)

“When we go to immigration in the airport, the first thing that they (say)… ‘Are you serious that you are a bobsled team from Brazil?'” Braun said.

However, at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, China, Brazil’s four-man team made the finals, reaching the top 20. To show the world how serious the sport is taken in Brazil, Braun said the team wants to bring exposure to Brazilian bobsled in places outside of Lake Placid, for which Tupper Lake is perfect.

Bobsled in Brazil

The first Brazilian bobsled team was formed in 1996. Bindilatti, who will be at the meet and greet, was an original member. Brazil has competed in all but one Winter Olympics since the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, missing the 2010 Games in Vancouver. Bindilatti’s final Olympics were the 2022 Beijing Games.

Without a real winter, training in Brazil can be tricky, Braun said. Most athletes live in different cities, working out in separate gyms. Occasionally, there are training camps in Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo.

Braun revealed that efforts are underway to build an elevated track in Brazil, sans ice, to simulate the course at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid. If successful, the course will be the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere.


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