For bobsledder Carlo Valdes representing Team U.S.A. at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang is a childhood dream come true. “It has been one of the greatest experiences of my life,” the 28-year-old athlete, of Mexican descent, told PEOPLE CHICA. “During the opening ceremony there was so much going through my mind. Being able to walk out behind the American flag representing my country has been the ultimate dream come true. Since I was a little kid, I wanted to compete at the Olympic level. Knowing that there are millions of people watching on TV is a very special feeling.”
It was also inspiring, he said, to see longtime rival countries North Korea and South Korea coming together during the popular sports event. “One of the coolest moments of the opening ceremony was watching North Korea and South Korea walk out with their flags and watching everyone in the stadium erupt when that happened. It was something I’ll never forget,” he recounted.
Valdes, who was raised in California, is also proud to represent his Mexican roots. Although his mom is American and he was born in the United States, he’s proud of his Latino heritage. “My grandfather from my dad’s side is from Chihuahua,” he said. “My grandfather then moved to California to start a new life and build the American Dream.” He realizes that other Latino athletes may look up to him and doesn’t take the responsibility of that lightly. “I hope to inspire other Latino athletes to get involved. It’s a huge honor to be a role model for the younger generations and motivate Latino athletes to do more sports,” he emphasized.
The whole family will be cheering him on Feb. 23. “They are loving every second of it. My mom and my sister are coming to watch me. They are all really excited,” he said. “My dad put me in sports at such a young age. He would bring me to all my practices. He was always involved somehow and he is beyond proud right now.”
Of his first encounter with a bobsled, he said: “The second I hopped onto one I loved it. It’s a combination of speed and strength. It’s crazy and wild. I fell in love.”
The Olympian reflected on the years of effort involved in reaching this watershed moment: “There is a lot of sacrifice and hard work,” he admitted, “but being out here, I feel that everything has been so well worth it.”
“We are looking to get a medal,” he said, “and we hope it’s gold.”