The fastest female Para runner on the planet has an extra reason to extend her amazing 10-year unbeaten record in major championships when she takes to the track at Tokyo 2020.
Omara Durand, Cuba’s sprinting jewel, knows that the eyes of the world will be on her as she defends the three Paralympic titles won in Rio five years ago. However, she is only interested in the identity of one keen watcher – her daughter Ericka.
Just three when her visually-impaired mother collected the T12 100m, 200m and 400m gold medals in Brazil, a performance which earned Durand the accolade of best female athlete in the Paralympic Sport Awards, the youngster is old enough to know what Durand does – and that has motivated the 29-year-old her even more.
“She understands perfectly what I do,” Durand said. “I will give everything on the track so that she feels proud of me. Even though she longs to be by my side all the time, she will be at home and see me running. Her applause will be with me.”
IN FULL CONTROL
Through Durand’s decade of dominance, she also won gold medals in the 100m and 400m at London 2012 which adds to her pressure, but the runner insists the challenge of extending that run helps keep her on her toes.
“It has been 10 years without losing and this is something amazing. It makes me prepare stronger every day to maintain my status. It is always exciting, and any competition gives nerves. What I do is relax, talk with my friends, listen to music.”
When COVID hit, and the world went into lockdown, Durand was without her competition guide. She had to adapt to a training regime which left her on her own.
“It has been an atypical year,” Durand admitted. “COVID arrived and changed the life of the whole world, the Games were suspended, and a void fell in the sports world. I spent several months at home, but I never stopped training although without my guide. I did a lot of exercises to maintain muscle tone.
“Then I rejoined training with my guide. I was complying with the hygiene measures and social distancing and taking all the care, so I have been able to train with my guide and we have prepared very well and so far, we have not been infected.
“I feel very good physically, I have prepared very strongly and I am well concentrated to compete to my optimum in Tokyo. I am in very good physical shape.”
TEST FOR RIVALS
That is bad news for Durand’s rivals, who must feel that she is invincible when they see her collection of medals and world records. The athlete remains grounded, however, and dismisses the label of fastest female Para athlete on earth.
“No matter what they call me, for me it is not the most important thing. The most important thing is that I love sport and every time I run I do it with passion to shine.
“I have had to live intense, exciting, sad, happy moments. In short, I think I have lived almost everything in sport and the bad moments that I have lived, I have learned lessons that have helped me for life inside and outside of sport.”