“We need to have perseverance, be disciplined and follow our dreams. No one said it is going to be easy. We think we will have our chances of winning a Paralympic medal. We believe in ourselves."
Nelson Serna and guide Marlon Perez are training hard with exactly six months to go until the 2018 UCI Para Cycling Road World Championships get underway in Maniago, Italy, as they aim to successfully defend the men’s road race tandem title from Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, in 2017.
The Colombian tandem clocked 2:29:45 to finish ahead of the Dutch and Polish tandems who took silver and bronze. “That gold was our biggest achievement so far,” said Serna, whose brother Elkin claimed two athletics silver medals at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, inspiring Nelson to take up Para sports as well.
“But in Maniago we will arrive with much more experience, motivation and confidence to perform even better. Many very talented athletes are also training hard to reach their best possible form ahead of the Road Worlds and try [to] win a medal, and they will not make it easy for us.”
Serna began with Para cycling at 12 years old, when “people in Colombia did not know much about cycling for people with vision impairment. For that reason, it was hard for me to find a guide.”
He then met Marlon Perez, who had been a professional able-bodied cyclist for several years. “I found this as a good opportunity to help Nelson and to continue being involved in the sport I love,” he said.
Planning further ahead, Serna and Perez are excited about competing at their third Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru, in 2019, after winning tandem gold at both Guadalajara 2011 and Toronto 2015.
“We need to have perseverance, be disciplined and follow our dreams. No one said it is going to be easy,” added Serna. After that, they will focus on the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. “We think we will have our chances of winning a Paralympic medal. We believe in ourselves.
“Representing your country fills you with pride. From training to singing the national anthem at an international competition, I enjoy every step of the way. What makes me happier is that Paralympic sports are changing perceptions of disability across Colombia.”
More information about the 2018 UCI Para Cycling Road World Championships is available on UCI’s website.