“Competitions are like a fiesta in which I’m the star. The three first places are the leading roles of this huge party. They are the winners: gold, silver and bronze.”
Powerlifter Amalia Perez, who has two Paralympic golds and two silvers to her name, is easily Mexico’s Paralympic pride and joy.
But since winning her second Games title with a Paralympic-record lift of 135kg in the -60kg category at London 2012, life has not been easy for Perez.
The 39-year-old, recently named to the IPC’s Ones to Watch list, has been attending physical therapy for an injured shoulder – something she’s hoping to overcome quickly to start preparing for the next Paralympic cycle.
“It is difficult to stay put for so much time after your body is used to sport,” Perez said. “I really miss it, but I need to be patient.”
Despite her current injury, Perez already has 21 years of training in competitive sports under her belt – experience that could carry her through Rio 2016.
The Mexican athlete almost began powerlifting as a mistake, she said.
Her focus growing up with 12 siblings was on her swimming career, and when she was 18 her coach pushed her to try powerlifting.
She lifted 60kg on her very first attempt, and her large family never saw her impairment as a barrier to sport
“They never minimised or maximised my disability,” Perez said. “I was just another family member.”
The rest was history, as Perez went on to win silver at the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Games, and then gold at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games.
Doing it for her people
A fundamental factor that has led Perez towards her professional growth is her husband’s support as her coach and companion.
Although Jose Enrique Alvarado is not a professional trainer, the powerlifting enthusiast has always done as much as possible to give Perez the best and most up-to-date training programmes.
“Before meeting my husband, I thought I was going downwards (in my career), and then the complete opposite happened. I broke a Paralympic record,” Perez said.
“We’ll have to see what the future holds.”
Perez said the biggest reward for herself is being able to return to her home country with medals and dedicating them to her people, and she hopes to continue that in the future.
“When I compete, I’m not Amalia, I’m Mexico,” she said.
Perez describes her international competitions as more of a celebration at which her family and friends can stand by her.
“Competitions are like a fiesta in which I’m the star,” she said. “The three first places are the leading roles of this huge party. They are the winners: gold, silver and bronze.”
While Perez will probably be sidelined with her injury for most of this season, she will still have nearly three years to train before the fiesta in Rio.