‘Juanito' his remarkable path to Paris – another milestone for the Colombian paracyclist

‘Juanito' his remarkable path to Paris – another milestone for the Colombian paracyclist

Doctors told Juan José Betancourt (Juanito) that he would never be able to walk or bike. However, Juanito proved all the medical specialists wrong after facing cerebral palsy at a young age.

With sheer willpower, total commitment, and the ability to deal with setbacks, the Colombian paracyclist became a medalist in Tokyo and has qualified for Paris as well. “I wanted to show the world that you can still dream and achieve goals when you have them.”

“The word disabled does not exist. Rather, we have different abilities, but we should not consider ourselves people with disabilities.”

Supported by BMC and the BMC distributor in Colombia, Betancourt’s story isn’t an average one. It was at the age of five years old that the young athlete, born in Bogotá but raised in Funza, had to face cerebral palsy. “I learned to walk when I was about five years old. It was always a challenge for me to learn to walk well. In fact, I am still in therapy to continue learning to walk better,” added Juan José, who always had in his mind that he wanted to be a cyclist.

Juanito BMC

His first years of life were not easy. As a person who suffers from certain neural conditions, bullying at school became a daily thing. This led to depression, and Colombia almost lost a champion.

“I was very depressed and at one point, I considered taking my own life. I took a knife and put it in my hand, when Sally, my dog, came and put her head on my thigh.

At that moment, the first thing I did was put the knife down and think, 'I'm going to continue working hard for my dreams.’

Juanito: “She defended me in life when I didn't believe in myself, in dreams, or in anything. She arrived at the hardest moment and supported me to overcome that difficult situation. She is a symbol of resistance for me, and I am very grateful to my dog,” which is reason enough to have her tattooed on the wrist of his right hand.

His cycling career hasn’t always been smooth. After receiving help from the charity of pro cyclist Esteban Cháves, he could train for the biggest events.

However, right before the world championships in Portugal, he crashed into a bus, similar to his fellow countryman Egan Bernal. After a recovery process, he managed to claim silver in the Worlds and qualify for Tokyo. There, he claimed a bronze medal in the T1-T2 category.

That’s not enough yet for Juanito. “I race to win, so I want to become world champion and also win in Paris. I dream about winning the biggest events, and that keeps me going every day.” 

The main issue that drives him is that disabled athletes are called disabled. “We have other types of abilities, and I want everyone to change that mentality from people with disabilities to people with different abilities.”