"I fulfilled a lifetime dream in Rio. Leaving Brazil with three Paralympic medals, taking into account this was my first Games, makes me feel very proud."
Colombia delivered a record-breaking performance at Rio 2016, winning two golds, five silvers and 10 bronze to round off their best Paralympic Games to date.
Until last year, Colombia had claimed one gold, three silvers and two bronze in total from three Paralympics.
As we approach the Americas Paralympic Committee’s (APC) 20th anniversary on 1 August, the Colombian team’s performance at Rio 2016 comes in at No.11 in the APC Top 20 Moments in History.
Swimmer Carlos Serrano put an end to his country’s 36-year-old Paralympic gold-medal drought by winning the men’s 100m breaststroke SB7 with a world record time of 1:12.50.
“I feel so proud, so happy, because we had worked very hard with my team in the lead-up to the Paralympic Games," he said. “I was mentally strong before Rio 2016 and did the best I could in the pool. In the end, I even broke my own world record, which was incredible.”
Serrano followed that up with one silver and one bronze. “I fulfilled a lifetime dream in Rio,” he added. “Leaving Brazil with three Paralympic medals, taking into account this was my first Games, makes me feel very proud."
Colombia’s other Paralympic champion from Rio was field athlete Mauricio Valencia, who took top honours in the men’s javelin F34.
“I was very confident prior to the Games that I could perform well,” he said. “After leaving London 2012 without a medal, I wanted the story to be different in Rio.”
Valencia first sealed bronze in the men’s shot put F34 with a 11m10 throw, finishing behind Morocco’s Azeddine Nouiri (11m28) and Qatar’s Abdulqadir Abdulrahman (11m15).
“I knew if I had a good result in my first event, I would be motivated enough to go for gold in the javelin,” he said. “The whole event was really nice and I am very thankful to the Colombian team for sending me good vibes.
“Colombia have a lot of potential and many young athletes. I think we can outdo at future Paralympics what we did at Rio 2016.”
With three silver medals, swimmer Nelson Crispin was another Colombian athlete who shone at Rio 2016.
“I have always worked and fought hard to achieve something like this,” he said.
“I reached Rio in my best possible shape and with a positive mind-set. These three medals were result of four years of hard work and sacrifice.”
Apart from athletics and swimming, Colombia also made it to the podium in cycling. Diego Duenas, who claimed bronze in the men’s individual pursuit C4, said:
“Right after competing at Toronto 2015, where I won one gold, I started training harder to reach my maximum strength. I also started working with a nutritionist and a physiotherapist.
“I did expect to win bronze because I had sealed a medal at the World Championships before. My coach told me that I would probably reach the podium and my training gave me the confidence I could do it.
“Colombia’s performance at the Rio Paralympics was possible thanks to the investment made in Para sports in the country.”