Far from feeling satisfied after claiming multiple titles at the Sao Paulo 2017 Youth Parapan American Games in March, Colombia’s Maria Paula Barrera has already set high goals ahead of the Mexico 2017 World Para Swimming Championships, from 30 September-6 October.
Although she already had previous experiences on the continental stage, this will be the 15-year-olds’s first opportunity to test herself against the world’s best.
“My goal for the World Championships is to finish amongst the top 10 swimmers in my events,” she said aware of how stiff the competition will be. “If I win a medal, even better.”
Barrera believes a good performance in Mexico City may act as a springboard for her career in the build-up to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
“One of my dreams is to get to know the whole world through sport whilst representing my country,” she said. “But certainly my biggest dream is to participate in Tokyo 2020.
“It would mean fulfilling one of my biggest dreams, which is why I am giving it all in every training and competition.”
Despite her youth, the Colombian has already made a name for herself in the sporting world. She burst onto the swimming scene in 2014, when she won two golds and two bronzes at the Santiago 2014 Para South American Games.
The following year, she took part in a training camp in Brazil run by the Agitos Foundation, the development arm of the International Paralympic Committee. “The Agitos Foundation inspired me and taught me more things about Paralympic sports,” she said.
“It showed me the path I have to follow to succeed in sports and I am very grateful to the organisation.” Some months later, Barrera reached six finals at the Parapan American Games in Toronto, Canada.
After shining in Brazilian waters at Sao Paulo 2017, where she sealed six golds, one silver and one bronze, the young swimmer was selected by the public both as the Allianz ‘Athlete of the Month’ and Americas ‘Athlete of the Month.’
“Although I achieved my goals at the Youth Parapans, it was surprising for me to be chosen by the public considering there were many other talented athletes who could have been selected,” she said.
“Having the people’s support left me speechless. I believe through my achievements I can inspire people around the world.
“Now I want to continue representing my country worldwide and to keep learning from my mistakes. Medals are not the only thing that matters, but growing as a person as well.
“If you fight for your dreams, you will always find a way to make them real.”
The Mexico City 2017 World Para Swimming Championships will be held from 30 September-6 October, with around 550 swimmers from more than 60 countries competing.