“Every time I come home from competition with a medal and say, 'here it is, Nano. It’s for you.' He always shows my medals to his friends and tells them ‘it’s my mother’s medal!” He is very proud of me.”
Mariano is an 8 years old Spanish boy who has Para swimming medals as his favourite gift. Her mother, who calls him Nano, is in Dublin on a mission to bring him a new gift, this time from the World Para Swimming Allianz European Championships.
“Every time I come home from competition with a medal and say, 'here it is, Nano. It’s for you.' He always shows my medals to his friends and tells them ‘it’s my mother’s medal!' He is very proud of me,” said Teresa Perales.
Perales is Spain’s most decorated Paralympian with 26 medals. Aged 42, she still goes to the Europeans feeling motivated and nervous, just like when she competed for the first time.
“After 20 years of competition, I still feel nervous because I love to swim, I love to compete and to be with all the people here. It is also about the adrenaline and all the amazing feelings I have when I’m here [in the pool]. I love what I do.”
The class S5 swimmer will take part in three events in Ireland (50m backstroke, 50m freestyle and 100m freestyle) and expects major challenges to be able to take another gift to Mariano.
“I’m here to win some medal, but I know it’s going to be difficult because of my age, my condition after so many years. But I’m going to try. I deserve to be here trying to do it.”
And Perales has no plans to stop. Dublin is the first major competition towards the main objective, which is to be in her sixth Paralympic Games at Tokyo 2020.
“My eyes are always in Tokyo. But depending on what happens here in Dublin, I will change my mind and my preparations. It’s not only [about] the win, it’s how I feel in the water. [That is how] I will be more motivated to Tokyo.”
When she looks back at the journey from her first competition, Perales feels proud not only about herself but about the whole perception of the Paralympic movement in her country. A lot has changed for good.
“Before Beijing , we didn’t have anything. We only trained because we loved it. Now we still train because we love, but we also have support, we have scholarships. We can train better than before. A lot of things have changed.”
“We are a very good and very big team, but this is the first time we come to a competition with a team that is younger than in the previous competition. I’m very happy for that.”
Perales’ search for more medals to Nano will begin on Tuesday (14 August), day two of the European Championships. And there is no danger of her not being able to find a place in her crowded trophy cabinet.
“I always have space for the medals. I can buy a bigger house if it is necessary, no worries.”
The World Para Swimming Allianz European Championships will run from 13 to 19 August. You can buy tickets on the Paralympics Ireland website.