Colombia’s Euclides Grisales fell short of qualifying for the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But that shortcoming only strengthened his motivation.
So much that he has sprung up as one of the top boccia athletes in the BC4 class.
From missing out on Rio 2016, to becoming his country’s first boccia World Championships medallist in 2018, the world No. 3 wants to continue that upward trend at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games this summer.
“Since I started my sports career, participating in the Paralympic Games was one of my biggest dreams,” Grisales said. “When I started my international participation, I set out to qualify for Rio 2016. I managed to attend some tournaments but it was not enough to occupy one of the available slots.
“I remember that it was a complicated stage for me,” he continued. “But I am sure that that moment was fundamental to start my preparation for Tokyo 2020 with greater conviction.”
Grisales’ journey into Para sports was a matter of being at the right place at the right time.
One afternoon in March 2009, he was on a bus in the city of Cali when a man approached and invited him to play the sport. That man is also Grisales’ coach today.
“Out of curiosity, I accepted his invitation,” Grisales recalled. “A few months later, I participated in my first national tournament where I won a bronze medal and a gold medal. This is how my career began; 12 years later I’m preparing for the Paralympic Games.”
Despite not qualifying for Rio 2016, the Colombian has been on a steady campaign to bring home his country’s first Paralympic medal in boccia. He captured silver at the 2017 Regional Championships and surprised at the 2018 Worlds when he overcame a competitive line-up that included the late Dirceu Pinto of Brazil and Germany’s Boris Nicolai to meet China’s Yusansen Zheng in the final but lost.
The competition in the BC4 category remains high. At his last competition – the Sao Paulo 2019 Regionals, he lost out to world No. 1 Alison Levine of Canada in the bronze medal game.
It was his last competition before the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on the world.
“I remember that competition was a very important mental challenge for my sports career because we had many possibilities to qualify by climbing positions in the World Boccia ranking, which we managed to achieve,” he said. “Personally, it was a competition where I identified some weaknesses that I had to improve both tactically and in terms of sports implementation, and as always I enjoyed the tournament until the last day.”
He has adapted to the challenges of no boccia competitions in over a year and has spent his time working on tactics. While his Paralympic debut was delayed, he remains grateful for the stranger who invited him to a new outlook in life.
“Boccia has given a 180-degree turn to my life,” he said. “Before knowing this sport, I was a person who did not have clear personal or professional goals, nor did I think about representing my country or knowing other cultures far from Colombia. All this, I owe to this exciting sport that helped me have a broader vision of life and that, accompanied with small goals, has made me a person with dreams, objectives and above all with a path full of self-improvement.”