Cadel Evans: I looked into his eyes and knew I’d be his dad

Cross-posted from The Australian Women’s Weekly

Tour de France champion Cadel Evans has opened up about the first time he saw his adopted son Robel in an emotional interview.

Speaking in the November issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly Cadel and his wife Chiara recall clicking on an email attachment and opening a photo of the Ethiopian orphan who would become their first child.

“That’s the first photo we ever saw of him and we thought, ‘Oh my God!’ ” Cadel says. “The [adoption officials] say, ‘You can say no. If something doesn’t feel right, say so.’

“But we saw the photos and we were just like — ohhhh! I just looked at those eyes looking at me. I felt someone was looking to me the way a son looks to a father.”

“We were like, ‘Wow, yes!’ ” Chiara adds. “We said, ‘Well, that’s our son, that’s it.'”

It was a long process, with no guarantees and seemingly endless delays.

“In an adoption, you hope, but of course, in my job, you hope for a lot of things and you often become very disappointed,” Cadel says. “So I had become used to hoping, but not putting too much on it because at any time in an adoption, it can be delayed.

“It might be for a week. It might be for a year. It might be for four years. Which, of course, when you’re hoping, hoping, is difficult to deal with.”

Robel was abandoned on the streets of Shashamane in 2011 when he was approximately six months old.

Four months after Cadel and Chiara saw his picture, they were flying to Africa to meet him for the first time.

“You don’t know — is he going to cuddle you? Is he going to cry? That’s a little bit of a scary moment,” Cadel says.

“But then he just jumped into our arms and smiled, and was happy. Then we went every day and played with him, and got to know him.”

After a brief court hearing, the adoption was complete and Cadel and Chiara were free to take their son home, which for most of the year is a house in Switzerland.

“We went back to the care centre where he was and, this time, we picked him up in our arms and walked out with him,” Cadel says.

“That was really incredible. But then also the first night, having him in the cot, hearing a little person breathe in the room.

“He snored a lot! That was the first part of the process where he became part of us. And the first time he said, ‘Papi’, that just melts your heart.”

Read more of this story in the November issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly.

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