“People now recognise me in the streets! I also feel like my family is prouder of me now.”
Brazil’s Paralympic and world champion Daniel Martins has spoken of how the 2015 International Federation for Intellectual Impairment Sport (INAS) Global Games helped him on the road to claiming gold at Rio 2016.
In two years’ time, hundreds of athletes with intellectual impairments will travel to Brisbane, Australia, for the 2019 Global Games. They will be hoping that the event can have a similar impact for them as it did for Martins when he made his international debut there in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
“At the Global Games, I was able to study my adversaries for the next year,” Martins said. “So it helped a lot in terms of getting to know them beforehand. My coach was able to see my running and was able to correct any mistake during the race. So, I could get better at that time.”
Martins won multiple gold medals in Guayaquil, including wins in the men’s 100m and 400m T20. But it was also important preparation for what has become a successful international career.
“It was a lot of fun, because I went to another country for the first time, was able to see another culture and could win five medals there,” he said.
Just one month after Guayaquil 2015 he made his World Para Athletics Championships debut in Doha, Qatar, and claimed his first world title in the 400m T20.
Then a year later Martins stormed to gold in a new world record time of 47.22 seconds at his home Paralympic Games. In 2017 he competed at the World Para Athletics Championships in London, Great Britain, where he defended his title.
“People now recognise me in the streets!” Martins said when asked how his life has changed. “I also feel like my family is prouder of me now.”
Martins is just 21-years-old and has a promising career ahead of him. This includes the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, but he is not taking anything for granted.
“I want to go strong for Tokyo but I have to think one step at a time,” Martins said. “I still have three years and a lot of competitions to come before 2020.”
His idol is Brazilian Olympian Joao da Barreira, who comes from Marilla in Sao Paulo – the same city as Martins. The youngster is grateful to have had the opportunity to train with da Barreira as well as make a wider difference to society through sport.
“I could do so many things… A lot of friends, could go to many places in the world and overcome the prejudice as a person with an impairment,” he said.
The 2019 INAS Global Games will gather more than 1,000 athletes competing in nine sports from 12-20 October. It will be the world’s biggest gathering of athletes with an intellectual impairment.