It was one of the most uplifting moments of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, a romantic gesture which captured the imagination of the world as it went viral.
When guide Manuel Vaz da Veiga dropped to one knee on the track after Keula Semedo’s T11 200m qualifying heat, there was only going to be one answer to the marriage proposal.
Fifteen months on and the couple have set the date – July 2023 in Lisbon, where they are based – and the bride-to-be is hoping for a honeymoon in the Maldives. Semedo’s guide dog Lisbonne will be at the wedding.
“Away from home I always need her to help me on my path. She is the one who accompanies me to work, training, day-to-day activities,” Semedo said. “She will be there [at the wedding].”
Vows and lyrics
The sprinter admits things have been different since Tokyo. Her profile as an Instagram influencer has been enhanced and she can describe herself as a composer/singer.
Semedo was able to match fiancé Manuel in the romance department by releasing a song she has written entitled ‘Amor’ (Love) which is dedicated to him and is on YouTube.
“My music was already being prepared before Tokyo. With the marriage proposal I added more things and it turned out to be a response to his request… ‘Let me take care of you, I want to be your lady, it is you that I love’.
“I would love to be able to continue singing. I’m preparing my next song but just waiting for the right time to record. Since I was a kid, I really liked singing and listening to music. I saw music as a way to ward off my sadness and frustrations.
“The idea of being an influencer came in 2020 during the pandemic when we were all at home. I had the idea of motivating and inspiring other people who are going through any kind of problems.
“My message is that they never give up on their dreams, fight to overcome barriers because many times the barriers are not physical but psychological. Focus, strength and faith.”
The only blip in recent months is that Semedo's modelling work has dried up.
“I’m still trying to do work as a model but I am not getting much work. I think it’s because of my disability but I don’t give up, I consider myself a beautiful girl with personality and I really like my body.”
Back home in Cape Verde, the pair are easily recognised and often approached.
“We are not a celebrity couple,” Semedo said. “In my country I am very well known due to several games and medals that I have won and in 2013 I participated in a reality show in my country. After Tokyo, I became better known and more approached.”
Re-living the moment
Semedo recalls that life-changing day on the track at the Tokyo stadium and admits she was surprised her partner was so public with his proposal.
“Manuel is a bit of a romantic. He’s also shy so I didn’t expect him to have the courage to do that," she said. “In the last year my life has changed a bit, good things have happened, new projects. It was a remarkable day. We weren’t expecting so much attention.
“I don’t know how many countries or how many people, but I have an idea that it was several countries and thousands of people.
“We had many messages, especially on social media – exciting, motivating and inspiring messages.”