Daniel Dias might be one of the most well-known Para athletes in the world, a multi-Paralympic champion and a Brazilian sporting icon, but a decade ago he was still a young aspiring swimming star.
The Durban 2006 World Championships were a breakthrough competition for him, winning three titles, but Dias ultimately stole the spotlight at the Rio 2007 Parapan American Games, where he took eight gold medals out of nine events in front of his home crowd.
“Rio 2007 was the first big step in my career to later become Brazil’s most decorated Paralympian,” said the 28-year-old.
“At the 2006 Worlds, I sprang a surprise sealing three golds, but at my first Parapan Ams I stopped being ‘a surprise’ to gain a name for myself within Para sports.
“I have so many good memories from that event, it was the first big one competing in my country and the fact that the fans and lots of friends could be there cheering for me was very emotional and rewarding.”
Dias went on to claim nine medals, including four golds, at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games and another eight at the 2010 World Championships in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
But he was in even better shape when he participated in the Guadalajara 2011 Parapan American Games, winning a staggering 11 gold medals to finish as the most decorated athlete of the competition.
“It was a great event, where I had the privilege to finish top of the individual medals table, and have many good memories from it,” he said.
“I like recalling that competition because we worked as a team very well, as I did not win titles only in the individual events, but also in the relays.”
As usual, Dias also left Toronto 2015 as the most decorated athlete with eight golds from all the events he took part in.
“The team work is what made this possible. The results are a consequence of that,” he said.
The Brazilian has already won 27 gold medals over three Parapan American Games, but he especially remembers “the first one I claimed in Rio because I could celebrate in my country. But all the medals are very important.
“And I hope to continue adding some more to my haul at Lima 2019, where I expect to see many new athletes emerging and the Paralympic Movement in the continent growing even more after the success of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.”
The Lima 2019 Parapan American Games will take place from 23 August-1 September and will feature a record 1,850 athletes competing in 17 sports, two more than at Toronto 2015.