Winning the gold medal in the 400m freestyle S6 at the Funchal 2016 European Open Championships in May was a timely confident boost for Italy’s Francesco Bocciardo ahead of Rio 2016.
With four years more of experience under his belt after finishing sixth in that same event at London 2012, the 22-year-old seeks to climb onto the Paralympic podium for the first time.
“My goal is to win a gold medal in Rio and I truly believe I can achieve that,” said Bocciardo.
“Funchal was such an exciting event and an incredible experience I am looking forward to repeating.
“I hope I can build on my performance at the Euros ahead of this year’s Paralympics.”
At 18-years-old, Bocciardo competed at the 2012 Paralympics, which he remembers as a life-changing experience.
“It was so great to be there with athletes from all around the world and cannot wait to repeat that experience in Rio,” he said.
Although Ireland’s London 2012 gold medallist Darragh McDonald will be pushing to win gold again in Rio, Bocciardo says Russia’s Andrei Granichka will be his main rival in the pool.
“He will be my toughest opponent,” he said.
The Italian hopes fans from all over the world will travel to Rio for the Paralympics to support their favourite athletes.
“I expect this Paralympic Games to become the biggest ever,” he said.
Bocciardo achieved his first major result at the Glasgow 2015 World Championships, when he took gold in the 400m freestyle S6.
“Becoming a world champion was consequence of years of hard work,” he said.
Three-time Paralympic bronze medallist Federico Morlacchi and London 2012 Paralympian Francesco Bettella are two swimmers Bocciardo looks up to.
“I admire them and have been an inspiration for me since I started swimming,” he said.
Now Bocciardo is trying to make a name for himself.
“I am resolute and have determination and resistance. On the other hand, I am too emotional,” he said.
With Rio 2016 coming closer, the Italian aims high.
“I really want to win the Paralympic gold, that is my biggest dream,” he said.
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs)
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.