“Actually we weren’t expecting it at all. We were shocked when we were called the world champions. We are speechless. We don’t know what to say.”
The 2015 IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport season has been packed with excitement, culminating with the World Championships in Rome, Italy, where a shock victory by Filipino couple Rhea Marquez and Jun Julius Obero highlighted the most important competition in the sport.
The couple’s victory in the combi freestyle class 2 halted Russia’s Galina Ryzhkova and Viacheslav Osipov winning streak in Rome between 7-8 November. This makes up just one part of No. 46 in the International Paralympic Committee’s Top 50 Moments countdown of 2015.
Marquez described the moment when the couple realised they would be taking the top step on the podium: “Actually we weren’t expecting it at all. We were shocked when we were called the world champions. We are speechless. We don’t know what to say.”
The victory was made even sweeter by the fact the couple had only been competing together for a very short period of time.
“We are full of emotions now because we are new partners actually and we just practiced for two weeks for this competition,” Marquez continued. “We are in the same dance studio and then I was competing with an able-bodied partner. And then our coach said, ‘Why don’t you try each other?’ That is why we became partners.
“It was the first time that our national anthem was being played [at the Championships]. I started crying.”
Marquez and Obero edged ahead in technique, choreography and presentation. Ryzhkova and Osipov claimed the silver medal, and the bronze medal went to their compatriots Svetlana Kukushkina and Maksim Sedakov.
Ryzhkova did not however leave Italy disappointed, having taken three gold medals, including the first world title in history in the women’s single freestyle.
“I am really glad I won gold,” the Russian said. “And just that silver in the combi freestyle, yes, we will work more to improve and win next time.
“We worked a lot on composition [in the singles freestyle] and trying to do the best thinking and finding the elements to make it more interesting in the best way.”
Ryzhkova is also happy with the development of the sport in 2015, particularly the inclusion of singles events onto the World Championships programme after their debut at the European Championships in 2014.
“I like it because it gives you the opportunity to find more interesting things, even discover the things you didn’t know you can do because there are some other horizons that are open when you are dancing,” Ryzhkova said. “So you can find more interesting things you can use in other events as well. So you are growing yourself. You can grow, and that is very important.”
Mexico’s Jesus Yermain Angeles Fernandez’s hip-hop performance was another highlight of Rome 2015,as he wowed the judges in the men’s single freestyle class 2. His attendance is evidence that the sport is growing in the Americas.
“I feel grateful because I am one of the best competitors,” he said. “I feel very proud.
“Despite every obstacle we had on the way, we were really prepared to do our best,” said Fernandez, whose Mexican team only arrived on the first day of competition due to flight cancellations. “And that was in my mind to do my best and to try and bring a medal home. So it didn’t matter about all the difficulties.
“In Mexico there are more other participants and I feel so proud being here and representing Mexico. It’s not just representing Mexico, but representing all the participants who are there who couldn’t come. I feel really proud.”
About 150 athletes from nearly 25 countries competed at the 2015 IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport World Championships, which crowned an exceptional year for the sport.
In September, a successful first World Cup was held in St. Petersburg, Russia, and in August, the sport launched a call for hosts for the first ever Asian Championships.
You can find out more about the Top 50 Moments of 2015 at the dedicated webpage.