World Para Swimming Allianz Championships
9-15 September

London 2019: Carlos Serrano looking at bigger picture

Colombian chasing gold and higher profile for Para athletes in his country 05 Sep 2019
a male Para swimmer holds up four fingers and his gold medal
ⒸLima 2019
By Amp Media | For World Para Swimming

Fresh from winning a stunning five titles at the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games, Carlos Serrano is now targeting triple gold at the World Para Swimming Allianz Championships, which begin on Monday in London, Great Britain. 

But the Colombian also has an even bigger goal in his sights – ensuring Para sports continue to grow in his home nation.

Serrano played a key role in boosting the profile of athletes with an impairment in his country when he won their first Paralympic gold medal for 36 years at the Rio 2016 Games.

Aged just 18, Serrano broke his own world record as he powered to the men’s 100m breaststroke SB7 title in Brazil.

Serrano also bagged a silver and a bronze medal, in the 100m and 50m freestyle respectively, as Colombia enjoyed their best Paralympic Games ever, winning 17 medals – two golds, five silvers and 10 bronze.

It was a game-changer for Para athletes in the South American country.

New recognition

“The success of the Colombian team helped elevate Paralympic sport in our country,” Serrano explained. “It changed how we are viewed quite a lot because, little by little, we are becoming more recognised. 

“Some years ago, nobody knew Paralympic sport, they did not know any athlete, but because now they are getting to know it, we are spoken about more, the media show us more.

“I’m very proud. There’s still a lack of support, but we’re becoming noticed more like conventional sportsmen and women.”

Rio was the crowning moment of Serrano’s career so far, but he knows that it is only through hard work that he can build on this.

Serrano won Colombia's first Paralympic gold in 36 years at Rio 2016

“I was only 18 years old and winning the first gold medal was the result of a lot of work, a lot of effort, many dawn training sessions, lots of training at night,” he says. 

“I dreamed it, I visualised it and I achieved it, so I have an immense pride and happiness that I bring to every competition and in every place.

“I convinced myself to be the best athlete in the world – work harder and fight harder for my dreams. And through this, I give my family more reasons to move forward.”

London calling

Serrano burst on to the international scene by taking multiple medals at the Buenos Aires 2013 Youth Parapan American Games aged just 14.

The year before, he had watched the London Paralympics on television and is excited by the prospect of competing at the same venue at next week’s worlds.

“I feel very happy and proud to go to London to participate in the pools that hosted the 2012 Games. I saw them on television and it was spectacular, so I’m very happy to go to represent Colombia and swim in those spectacular pools.”

The worlds have been a happy hunting ground for Serrano – he won five gold medals in Mexico City in 2017, having announced himself as a serious senior competitor in Glasgow two years earlier when he won gold and set a world record in 100m breaststroke.

Serrano's first Worlds were Glasgow 2015 where he set a new world record

“Glasgow started me off,” Serrano said. “That’s where my Paralympic career as a senior swimmer began. It was the beginning of the birth of a new athlete, the beginning of a person who went for great things, for great dreams.”

Serrano became a five-time world champion at Mexico City 2017

Serrano will compete in five events in London – the 10m breaststroke, 200m combined, 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle and 50m butterfly – and has set his sights high.

“For the world championships in London, the idea is to achieve three gold medals, improve my world record and ratify my first in the ranking,” he said.

More information on London 2019 can be found on the official website