The cheerful and passionate Brazilian crowd was fundamental in Daniel Dias’ success at Rio 2016, where the 28-year-old swimmer reached the podium in all nine events he competed in, claiming four golds, three silvers and two bronzes.
The Aquatics Stadium was packed every time Brazil’s most decorated Paralympian ever hit the pool, with the fans loudly celebrating every of Dias’ and his compatriot’s achievements.
“Of course I was expecting to have the support of the crowd, but I could not imagine how big it would be,” he said.
“It was a great emotion, surprising and wonderful. The fans’ affection instilled passion in me and motivated me to give even more of myself.”
With a total of 2.15 million tickets sold, Rio 2016 overtook Beijing 2008 as the second biggest Paralympic Games in history, only behind London 2012.
“It was a huge success. I think the fans were the best thing about Rio,” he said.
“Also, we did not have any issues with the Games logistics and another great thing is that society started to look at us [people with impairment] with more respect.”
Dias won two Paralympic golds less in Rio than four years ago, but this time he could seal medals in the relay events, unlike at London 2012.
“My goal was to win medals in the individual events,” he said.
“But I could also reach the podium in the relays, so I exceeded my expectations.”
The 24-time world champion won silver in both the mixed 4x50m freestyle relay 20 points and the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay 34 points, and bronze in the men’s 4x100m medley relay 34 points.
After his races, Daniel Dias could be seen celebrating with his family and relatives, and holding his recently-born son Danielzinho on his chest.
“Competing at home with my wife, kids, parents, cousins and friends watching from the tribunes was marvelous and fantastic,” he said.
“Knowing they love you, no matter if you win a medal or not, is priceless.”
Despite claiming four golds, it was the bronze in the 50m butterfly S5 the medal Dias enjoyed winning the most.
“It was after that race that I learned many lessons. I looked at the stands, saw my family and knew that, no matter my final position in the race, their love for me would not change,” he said.
“From that moment on, I started to enjoy every moment of the Games.”
Rio 2016 ended more than a month ago, and Dias already targets further success.
“I am already training for next year’s World Championships in Mexico, the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games and, of course, Tokyo 2020,” he said.
“I am hoping to compete in two or three Paralympic Games more and help raise awareness of Para sports.”