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28139-Alberto Abarza photo

Alberto Abarza

Swimming

Biography

Impairment information

Type of Impairment
Impaired muscle power
Origin of Impairment
Congenital
Classification
S2

Further personal information

Family
Partner Amber, daughters Becciee Saray and Amaia
Residence
Chile
Occupation
Athlete, Bank Employee
Languages
Spanish

Sport specific information

When and where did you begin this sport?
He first tried swimming at age two in Santiago, Chile, and at age 10 he began competing at the Teleton Rehabilitation Centre in Chile.
Why this sport?
He began swimming therapy to help his impairment. "Water is the only space where I feel I do not have an impairment because I do not depend on anybody. It's just the water and me."
Name of coach
Cristian Espindola, CHI, from 2018

International debut

Year
2014
Competing for
Chile

General interest

Nicknames
Carolito, Beto (emol.com, 30 Dec 2017; Facebook profile, 21 Dec 2016)
Hobbies
Going to the beach, watching films. (Athlete, 10 Sep 2019)
Memorable sporting achievement
Winning three bronze medals at the 2017 World Championships in Mexico City, Mexico. (Athlete, 10 Sep 2019)
Most influential person in career
Former coach Sebastian Cardenas. (Athlete, 10 Sep 2019)
Hero / Idol
Chilean tennis player Marcelo Rios, Brazilian swimmer Cesar Cielo. (Athlete, 10 Sep 2019)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"Swimming is not an individual sport. Certainly I am the one who swims, but behind me there is a huge team and every single one is essential." (Teleton Chile, 10 Sep 2016)
Awards and honours
He was the Chilean flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru. (andina.pe, 24 Aug 2019)

He won the 2018 National Sports Award in Chile. (latercera.com, 19 Dec 2019; swimchile.cl, 19 Dec 2019; latercera.com, 21 May 2019)

He was named the 2018 Para Athlete of the Year by the Sports Journalists' Circle in Chile. (alairelibre.cl, 17 Dec 2018)

In 2017 and 2018 he was named Para Athlete of the Year by the Chilean Olympic Committee. (elperiscopio.cl, 12 Dec 2018; emol.com, 30 Dec 2017)
Ambitions
To compete at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. (vergara240.udp.cl, 03 Sep 2020)
Impairment
At age two he was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. The condition affects the nervous system and causes degenerative muscle weakness. (Athlete, 10 Sep 2019; emol.com, 30 Dec 2017; ellibero.cl, 28 Dec 2015)
Other information
EYES ON TOKYO
In 2020 he spoke about how the degenerative nature of his condition may prevent him from being able to compete at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, following the one-year postponement of the Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "I do not know if I will be able to be there [Tokyo 2020] next year, I see it as 80% more difficult. Every day it costs more to be able to move. Absolutely I am wanting to be in Tokyo [2020]. I want to teach my daughter to fight. While the medal is important, I want to teach her that you have to try. Try to enjoy it and keep smiling, because it was four years of preparation." (biobiochile.cl, 21 May 2020)

US INVITATION
In 2020 he declined an invitation from the United States of America to join their national Para swimming team. "They realised I had not competed for Chile for one year [due to the COVID-19 pandemic]. They offered me an apartment in New York, training, medical staff and a monthly wage, bigger than the Chilean one. But this is not about money. It's a good opportunity but I love my country for better or for worse. And I want to make a difference from Chile. [They invited me], I think, because I have a chance to win a medal [at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo]. It had never been my goal to go for it. I think everybody thinks I'm going to win, but I don't. I hope I will, and I will give my best to do it." (vergara240.udp.cl, 03 Sep 2020)

COVID-19 LOCKDOWN AFFECTING IMPAIRMENT
He was unable to train between March and September 2020 during the lockdown period in Chile due to his high-risk medical status. He says the break from training caused his degenerative condition to worsen. "All [athletes] who were qualified to [the 2020 Paralympic Games in] Tokyo were supposed to train. But I was not in that group because I belong to the high risk population due to my impairment. What they did not understand was that, on one hand they were taking care of me, but on the other hand I was dying. I depend on exercise to survive, basically, because my impairment gets worse every day. The pandemic has affected me a lot. As we couldn't train and with no medical staff, the condition got worse. I have so much pain in my legs and my arms do not move as before." (vergara240.udp.cl, 03 Sep 2020; eldeportero.cl, 21 Aug 2020)

BREAK AND RETURN
At age 20 he lost mobility in his legs and decided to take time away from the sport. He returned to the sport two years later as part of his rehabilitation but was reluctant to enter high performance swimming. However, at age 24, his coach encouraged him to start taking the sport seriously and begin pursuing a career as a Para swimmer. (vergara240.udp.cl, 03 Sep 2020)

Results

Unit Date Rank
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's 50 m Backstroke S3 Heat 1 2016-09-10 4
Men's 50 m Backstroke S3 Final Round 2016-09-10 8
Men's 50 m Freestyle S3 Heat 1 2016-09-13 5
Mexico City 2017 World Para Swimming Championships (Mexico City, Mexico)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's 50 m Backstroke S2 Final 1 2017-12-04 3
Men's 50 m Backstroke S2 Heat 2 2017-12-04 2
Men's 200 m Freestyle S2 Final 1 2017-12-06 3
Men's 100 m Freestyle S5 Intermediate Time 2017-12-06 9999
Men's 100 m Backstroke S2 Final 1 2017-12-07 3
Men's 100 m Backstroke S2 Heat 2 2017-12-07 3