In this episode, we hear the story of Portlander and Costa Rican National Champion Felipe Nystrom. But before we get to the interview, I want to share a content warning: This episode includes mentions of physical and sexual abuse, suicide, and descriptions of excessive drug and alcohol use.
I first heard about Felipe’s story in fall of 2019 and we actually got together for our first interview in July of that year. For various reasons, I was never able to share the story on BikePortland and it’s been nagging at me ever since, so I’m very excited to finally bring it to you. I’m also grateful that Felipe trusted me with details about his childhood he’s never shared publicly before.
“I think everything that I’ve been through, I’ve been training without knowing it. And that’s kind of the positive spin I try to put on it. You have to decide whether you want to keep dwelling on all of these things… Yeah it’s in the past, but it was rough. You know, a two year old shouldn’t have these things happening to them. And so I have had to find a way to just shut it down and focus on something else. And it’s the same with cycling. When I’m out there and I want to give up? It’s like ‘No man, are you gonna’ call your son and told him you gave up?'”
Some of you might know Felipe as an elite competitor on the regional racing circuit who’s had a meteoric rise through the ranks — in just a few seasons he went from beginner in 2015, to Costa Rican National Champion in 2019 and a World Cup competitor this year. But his cycling success is just a tiny part of his life story. The first 30 years of his life were a struggle for survival. Before he went into rehab and ultimately moved to Portland in 2013, Felipe was hopeless and homeless, living on the streets of San Jose, Costa Rica after after a life filled with traumatic experiences and after several attempts to commit suicide.
Suffice it to say, Felipe’s life has gone through a remarkable transformation and I think you’ll appreciate his powerful story.
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Full interview transcript below (generated by a robot, so please excuse any errors):
Felipe Nystrom Interview Transcript