Decided to start a series of blogs named “On the shoulders of giants” due to a constant urge I have had over the past year to talk about my personal inspirations, my personal heroes, and how they have impacted my life.
Seemed fair to me to start, on this rainy summer afternoon in D.C., craving to go out and do some exercise or play sports to talk about one of my sports idols, the Brazilian King of Clay, tennis player Gustavo Kuerten.
Born and raised in Florianopolis, Brazil, “Guga”, as people commonly know him in Brazil, is a former No.1 male tennis player and three-time Roland Garros champion in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. He began playing tennis at age six and lost his father at age 9. Guga remained strong together with his older brother and mentor, his mother, and a younger brother who would later pass away due to complications of cerebral palsy at age 28. He retired in 2008 from professional tennis after several injuries and, inspired by his younger brother, he created the Institute Guga Kuerten organization that focuses on bettering the lives of children and those with disabilities.
At the same level of Brazilian football stars, F1 driver Ayrton Senna stands my dear Guga. He is the embodiment of a true champion of the people with a full sense of leadership by example, the most refined sportsmanship, and a joie de vivre that leaves no space for violent rivalry, resentment, and greed. He is motivation in its purest form for me.
As a young kid I was mesmerized watching Guga, his long curly, his colorful outfits, and his unique backhand and thinking to myself he was the true OG, the best representation of modern tennis, and all I ever thrived to be: A fun-loving guy, playing tennis to have fun and make everyone else around enjoy as well.
As an amateur tennis player, I was marveled to see him so gracefully play the clay courts with a hell of a backhand and net game as if it was always his last game at stake. Every single game, no complaints.
Today, as a 31-year old man living in the complex world that we live in, I go back to watch his games, his interviews, and his post-tennis journey as the purest form of motivation in my darkest days, only to come out at peace with myself and the world around me. That is where I find the true resonance of a hero.
He showed resilience and courage when his father died, he showed the great skill of being humble and teachable to grow, he remained grateful to his country and his people who made him the great champion he is, and . If those are not traits of a hero, a champion and a leader of the highest order, then I never want to become one.