41237-Maria Carolina Gomes Santiago photo

Maria Carolina Gomes Santiago



Impairment information

Type of Impairment
Vision impairment
Origin of Impairment
S12, SB12, SM12

Further personal information

São Paulo, BRA

Sport specific information

When and where did you begin this sport?
She began swimming at age four in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She took up competitive Para swimming in 2018.
Why this sport?
As a child, she was told swimming was the only sport that did not cause any risk to her eye condition. She used to go with her brother to his swimming sessions. "I went along with him during his training and I would swim in the side lane."
Club / Team
Gremio Nautico Uniao [GNU]: Porto Alegre, BRA
Name of coach
Leonardo Tomasello [national], BRA; Ana Paula Longoni Brandao [personal]
Training Regime
She trains at the Paralympic Training Centre in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

International debut

Competing for
São Paulo, BRA

General interest

Veteran Rookie [as she was 33 when she started Para swimming], Carol [as her middle name is Carolina]. (, 11 Mar 2020)
Memorable sporting achievement
Winning gold in the S12 50m freestyle at the 2019 World Championships in London, England. (, 11 Mar 2020;, 12 Sep 2019)
In 2019 she suffered from a shoulder problem. (, 11 Mar 2020)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"For me, swimming has always been a way to overcome my fears." (, 11 Mar 2020)
Awards and honours
She was named the 2021 Para Sportswoman of the Year by the Brazilian Paralympic Committee [CPB]. (, 09 Feb 2022)

She was named Para Swimmer of the Year at the 2019 Paralympic Awards in Brazil. (, 31 Dec 2019;, 12 Dec 2019)
Other sports
She has competed in able-bodied swimming and open water swimming in Brazil. (, 01 Jul 2019;, 19 Apr 2019;, 13 Dec 2014)
At the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo she became the first female Para swimmer representing Brazil to claim three gold medals at one edition of the Games. With five medals in total she also became the Brazilian female Para swimmer with the most medals at a single edition of the Games. (SportsDeskOnline, 04 Mar 2022;, 03 Sep 2021)
To compete at the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris. (, 17 Sep 2021)
She was born with morning glory syndrome, a defect in the optic nerve. She only sees shapes with her left eye and does not have peripheral vision in her right eye. (, 05 Apr 2020;, 01 Jul 2019)
Other information
She competed in able-bodied swimming throughout her childhood but gave up the sport at age 17 when an accumulation of water in her retina left her without any sight for almost eight months. "I had water in my retina and I was completely blind. I couldn't swim because I didn't trust that I wouldn't crash into something. It was a really bad time in my life that I don't even like to talk about too much. I returned to swimming because I needed to get some exercise. I was afraid of gaining too much weight. At 27, I felt too much time had passed without having done any kind of workout, so I decided to return. I had kept putting it off and thought I was too old for sport." (, 11 Mar 2020;, 01 Jul 2019;, 13 Dec 2014)

In 2013 she started open water swimming. She found the sport challenging with her vision impairment, and switched to Para swimming in 2018. "I had to follow someone in order to not miss the course buoys, because I cannot see them. An object that is 20 metres away for a normal person looks 400 metres away to me. I swam with fear of getting lost. The coolest thing was when I finished. I thought, 'Gee, I did it'. Sometimes I got lost, but then I waited in the middle of the sea waiting for an athlete to help. It's a bit scary, but there's always someone on the team that will come along." (, 01 Jul 2019;, 13 Dec 2014)

After she returned to competitive sport in 2018 she discovered she had a hormonal issue that affected her performances on a regular basis. "We discovered I had a very big female hormonal variation, which if I didn't manage to solve I would have struggled with my performances. It was a noticeable difference that some times I swam a good time and the very next week I swam four or five seconds slower. My coach Leonardo Tomasello told me I would work with a sports gynaecologist to see the real options we had. We did that job and all results were so good. And I still continue with that aid." (, 17 Sep 2021)