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When U.S. windsurfer Pedro Pascual gets into the waters in Rio de Janeiro this week, he will be dedicating his runs to his 89-year-old grandfather, who fought tooth and nail to travel to the South American country to see him compete in his first Olympic games.
“He has been my main motivation,” Pascual, 20, told Fox News Latino in the days leading up to the 2016 Summer Olympics. “He wasn’t feeling so well recently, and, now that he is feeling better, he is working to convince my parents to bring him.”
Name: Pedro Pascual
Discipline: Windsurfing RS:X
Begins competition: Monday 8/8
Pascual, who was born in Córdoba, Spain, is representing the Red, White and Blue in sailing's RS:X category.
He first started sailing around the age of 13 with a small-one person boat. But it was too slow for him, so his father, Alberto, also a windsurfer. Pascual got hooked on a different type of sail.
“I started competing locally [in Cadiz, Spain] and then step by step, I started winning a lot leading up the Olympic trials,” he said.
In 2013, when his family moved to Saudi Arabia, he decided to represent the U.S. instead of his birth nation. He took a year off from getting his mechanical engineering degree at Florida Atlantic University to focus solely on making it onto Team USA.
“At first, I didn’t know what to feel,” he recalled when finding out that he had made the team earlier this year. “It was overwhelming, and I really needed to process it.”
In the weeks leading up to the games, Pascual and the rest of the U.S. sailing squad spent nearly three weeks in Rio to get used to conditions that have been highly criticized in the media.
“They’re all right, not as bad as advertised,” he said about the cleanliness of the waters around the Marina da Gloria in Guanabara Bay. “They are definitely not ideal but OK.”
However, that is not what Pascual is focusing on. His goal is to get the U.S. back on the windsurfing podium at the Olympics. The U.S. has not won a medal in the discipline since Barcelona 1992, when Mike Gebhardt won the silver in the men’s Lechner A-390.
“This is the best experience of my life,” Pascual told FNL. “I hope it will go great for me and for my grandfather. He’s really the one who has pushed me. This is all for him.”