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Becoming top Para cyclist means being a better person for Diego Duenas

Colombian Rio 2016 cycling bronze medallist speaks about his career in an Instagram Live event organised by the IPC to celebrate one-year-to-go to Tokyo 2020 13 Sep 2020
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a para cyclist rides around the track
Colombian Diego Duenas is one of the world's best cyclists
ⒸGareth Copley - Getty Images
By IPC and Tokyo 2020

Colombian Diego Duenas has been a big name in Para cycling for some years, but it was in 2019 that he finally reached the status as one of the "world's best" after reaching the top of the C4 Para cycling rankings.

Duenas was one of 24 athletes who took part in the International Paralympic Committee's (IPC) 24-hour Instagram Live Relay as part of the #WaitForTheGreats campaign to mark one year until Tokyo 2020.

The 30-year-old recalled when he first tried sports; and how he first fell in love with skating. Back then, Duenas was going to train with a clear goal: reaching the top of the sport. But his life changed after he fell during a training session.

 

“Twelve years ago I was a race skater. I had an accident and broke my right femur and my left tibia and fibula. After that fracture I had a nerve injury and I couldn't move my left ankle. And that's how I got into Paralympic sport,” he explained.

After the accident, Duenas reinvented himself. The athlete had to start a new process that allowed him to prove himself in a different sport. In 2011, he participated in the Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, winning silver in the individual time trial. This good result gave him the confidence he needed at that time and encouraged him to continue improving as a cyclist.

Encouraged by his parents and sisters, Duenas continued his winning streak, which led him to his first Paralympic Games in Rio, in 2016, where he claimed bronze in the track cycling individual pursuit C4.

“There are thousands of athletes who want to go to the Paralympic Games. Many want to be in the final and be a medallist and very few can make it. It is something unique, incredible. It's the biggest achievement I've had in my sporting career,” he said.

His outstanding achievement in Rio marked a turning point in his professional career. 

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Man on track cycle rides around a velodrome
Ⓒ Getty Images

 

“There were many moments before the competition that led me to hit rock bottom in many aspects, in terms of fear, nerves, scares, the pressure that you experience at a Paralympic Games. It's something unique that you don't experience in other events. That made me realise that I have to work more on being a better person than an athlete. I have achieved it, although I still need to improve, but we are working on it,” he added.

One of the aspects of his career that Duenas likes to emphasise is having had the opportunity to compete in another sport before devoting himself to Para cycling.

“When I was a race skater I didn't know that Paralympic sport existed. It has been a good experience to do first an able-bodied sport and then a Paralympic sport. I have both visions. I have very good experiences,” he said.

Training with his sister


Duenas plans to continue preparing for his greatest goal: the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. He will train in Sogamoso, a Colombian city located in the center-east of the department of Boyaca in the Alto Chicamocha region. This area is known for its altitude; he moved there three years ago to improve his performance. He has been training with his younger sister Tatiana, a professional cyclist on a US team.

“Training with her is a lot of fun. We laugh a lot, we stop to take pictures... She fills me up with energy and so do I. We give pieces of advice to each other. She teaches me values and teaches me things. It's been incredible to train with her these days here,” he says.