“I learned to accept my impairment thanks to my mom Cledna Jeronimo. I really admire her. She taught me that the one who had to accept me was no other but myself,
At the early age of 13, Brazilian swimmer Cecilia de Araujo made the hard decision of leaving her hometown Natal to travel to Sao Paulo, where she could train under the best possible conditions to pursue her dream of qualifying for the Paralympic Games.
But Araujo could never imagine she would achieve her biggest goal only four years later, after being selected to compete at Rio 2016, where she will have the unique opportunity to take part in the world’s biggest Para sport event on home soil.
“I want to represent my country in the best possible way,” said Araujo, who was born with cerebral palsy.
The 17-year-old started swimming when she was three on medical advice. She has not stopped since then and has never seen her impairment as a barrier for personal growth.
“I learned to accept my impairment thanks to my mom Cledna Jeronimo. I really admire her. She taught me that the one who had to accept me was no other but myself,” she said.
Araujo’s hard work and self-belief paid off and, in 2013, she burst onto the international scene by winning several medals at the Buenos Aires Youth Parapan American Games.
“I remember it very well as an incredible experience since it was my first competition abroad,” she said.
Two years after claiming her first official titles as a swimmer, Araujo was invited to Sao Paulo, Brazil, by the Agitos Foundation, the development arm of the International Paralympic Committee, to take part in a training camp.
Background and family life: VIDEO
Life as an athlete: VIDEO
Over the last 18 months, a total of 155 athletes, coaches and classifiers from 23 countries, including Araujo, have benefitted from expert training provided during the Road to Rio 2016: Agitos Foundation Sessions. Organised in partnership with the Rio 2016 Organising Committee and Brazilian Paralympic Committee, the sessions aimed to improve coaching and Para sport standards as part of the legacy of Latin America’s first Paralympic Games.
Araujo is one of eight athletes from Latin America whose remarkable stories are being told in a series of powerful short road to Rio 2016 films produced by the Agitos Foundation.
“The Agitos Foundation taught me that achieving my dreams depends on myself,” she said.
A few months after the training camp, Araujo showed great form at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, winning bronze in both the 50m and 100m freestyle S8.
“I consider the two bronze medals a huge achievement,” she said.
But Toronto was only another stop in her so far short but fruitful career. In just a few days, Araujo will compete at her first Paralympic Games at Rio 2016.
“I want to show everyone that with effort, you can make your dreams come true,” she said.
Clean, broadcast quality versions of Araujo’s videos are available free of charge to all media. Requests should be submitted to [email protected] The Agitos Foundation must be credited for all use of footage.
The Agitos Foundation road to Rio 2016 videos will feature at least one athlete per week until the 4 August, to show the compelling stories that exist in Para sport development as part of #TeamAgitos.
Anyone can use #TeamAgitos on social media to show they are part of the team for developing Para sport, whether they are fans, athletes, coaches, part of the Paralympic Movement or a partner organisation.