Spain, hometown of many of the greatest athletes of the world. Birthplace of Gasol, Nadal, Fernando Alonso or Andrés Iniesta. But among of them there is one athlete that shines more than anyone. And she shines because of the Olympic medals that she has, many as Michael Phelps.
She is Teresa Perales, the Paralympic swimmer who reached the epic mark of 22 medals in London 2012. The Spanish flag-bearer in the openning ceremony. Surely the greatest Spanish athlete if we take into account her story of overcoming, that has always got what she wanted to, and not only in the world of sport. Unfortunately, she was born in a country that you are hardly taken into account if you are a woman athlete and, ever more, if you are disabled.
She competed in the S5 category, but in breaststroke, where she does in S4. She can’t move her legs. She moves in a wheelchair since she was 19.
There are two types of disabled people. The ones who say “I can’t” and the other who say “Why I couldn’t?” Without a doubt, Perales belongs to the second type. The first time she went into a swimming pool she had to use a life jacket. After that, she would realize that under the water her disability wouldn’t be a limit any more.
She started competing in international challenges in 1998 and two years after she won the first four medals in Sidney. The Paralympic dream started there but is still not over: with 22 medals she is looking for Rio 2016, where she hopes to increase her mark with more medals than the myth Michael Phelps.
During this years she astonished her family and friends by getting married standing, using a machine that “it hurt” but allowed her to forget the wheelchair during the ceremony. She also had a child, “Nano”, that enjoyed last summer watching his mother swimming and winning 6 medals in the AquaticsCenter. He appears in the video below:
Having a child didn’t let her prepare the Games as she would like and in London her shape wasn’t so god as in Beijing. She started getting medals but the gold seemed to escape from her. But, finally, she got it. It was in her last performance in London, the 100m freestyle. There she finally got her British Gold and matched Phelps with 22 medals. She reached that final absolutely exhausted because of the previous 5 finals, but she couldn’t leave London without Gold and she did it.
Perales taught as what any people need to learn in life: to ask to ones head everyday “why I couldn’t?” Doesn’t mind what the issue is, if it’s overcoming psychical problems, having a child despite of being disabled or getting medals and matching Michael Phelps.
She hasn’t the recognition that the other Spanish athletes that I named in the beginning have, but she has a lot to teach them about overcoming. She is one of the greatest Spanish Athletes of the story and being disabled or not hasn’t nothing to do with this. Her ability to self-improve and overcome adbersity, and her capacity to win medals since Sydney 2000 to London 2012 let us know how she is. And looking for the future, as she uses to say, “Perales is not over”.