Brazil´s most decorated Paralympian ever Daniel Dias visited the Brazilian Paralympic Centre to watch the swimming competitions at the fourth Youth Parapan American Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Thursday (23 March).
The 28-year-old swimmer highlighted the importance of this event, which helps hundreds of youngsters from the Americas to showcase their abilities on the international scene for the first time.
“I am very happy for being here and watching many different young athletes representing their countries,” said Dias, who won 24 Paralympic medals overall, including 14 golds, seven silvers and three bronzes. “It is with great honour that I am accompanying the youngsters on this day.
“The Youth Parapans are very important because we need more kids getting involved in Para sports across the Americas. We have many ‘old’ swimmers in Brazil such as Andre Brasil and myself. And we need 15 and 16-year-old athletes to make a strong team ahead of the next major competitions.”
Last year, Dias founded an institute to introduce people with impairments into Para sports.
“I receive many emails from people asking how they can take up sports. That is how I came up with this idea,” he said. “I want to put into people´s minds the idea that everyone can be a champion.”
Dias also praised the facilities of the Brazilian Paralympic Centre, a major structural legacy of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games being used to host competitions at Sao Paulo 2017.
“This [the Brazilian Paralympic Centre] is the main legacy of last year´s Paralympics. Sao Paulo 2017 will continue building on Rio 2016´s success and help spread the Paralympic Movement in Brazil and the continent event more,” said Dias.
“Rio 2016 was an unforgettable experience for me. I could even hear the people cheering for me when I was underwater. It was incredible.”
Although he is a multiple world and Paralympic champions, Dias admits he is hungry for more. And, with the 2017 World Para Swimming Championships, set to take place in Mexico City from 29 September - 6 October, fast approaching, he already set personal goals.
“I hope to be there and, further ahead, at Tokyo 2020,” he said.
Sao Paulo 2017 will run until 25 March and features over 800 athletes from 19 countries competing across 12 sports: athletics, boccia, football 5, football 7, goalball, judo, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, table tennis, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis.
The last edition at Buenos Aires 2013 attracted more than 600 athletes from 16 countries, who competed across 10 sports. Brazil topped the medal table and 15 countries reached the podium at least once.
Barquisimeto, Venezuela, staged the inaugural edition in 2005, with athletes from 10 countries competing, whilst a total of 14 countries attended the event in Bogota, Colombia, in 2009.
For more information, visit Sao Paulo 2017’s website