Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior—you know him as simply “Neymar,” or at least you should, because he’s a soccer genius—is one of Brazil’s most cherished sports stars. He’s also buddies with Gabriel Medina. The two play a little poker, trade snarky barbs on Instagram, and exchange jerseys, as per the unwritten rules of soccer sportsmanship. We connected with Neymar to get a quick sense of what Medina’s surfing accomplishments mean to the Brazilian sports world.
SURFER: What about Gabriel, do you think, makes him different from the other Brazilian surfers who have tried to bring a World Title home to Brazil?
I'm not a surf expert, but I always make company with Medina whenever I can. I watch the videos he makes and the competitions he participates in. Now he has the possibility of being a world champion. So I am very happy and I'm rooting for him to get the title, because he's made such an effort, he chases his own dreams and he knows what he wants. I think he deserves it. I'm sure that he will try everything to win and here we are cheering, especially me. I already talked to him and I hope he wins.
What would it mean to the country of Brazil to have a surfing world champion?
Brazil always had great athletes in all sports around the world. To me, conquering something big is the greatest thing that can happen to an international level athlete. For us Brazilians, having someone like Medina in surf, who has the possibility of being the champion, it's just wonderful.
There's obviously a lot of expectations on Brazilian athletes to perform, does that add to the pressure in events? Is there a fear of failing? Or does it motivate you and athletes like Gabriel?
From what I know of Gabriel, he is a very focused and he knows what he wants for his life and career. The pressure will always exist for an athlete that's always competing. Anxiety will always get you, but our dream speaks louder.