Argentina’s Daniela Gimenez and Spain’s Sarai Gascon will head to their third consecutive Paralympic Games in 2016 as close friends with an underlying rivalry.
Since their first meeting back in 2007, the pair have enjoyed a strong friendship. But before Rio 2016 they will compete at the 2016 IPC Swimming European Open Championships in Funchal, Portugal, from 30 April-7 May.
“I basically want to reach my full potential for the Paralympic Games. The Europeans will be a high-level event,” said Gimenez.
“Funchal is going to be great for us to improve ahead of Rio 2016. It is a very important event and I will try to reach or outdo my personal bests,” added Gascon.
The pair compete against each other in the 100m breaststroke SB9, 50m freestyle S9 and 200m individual medley SM9 events. As the 50m freestyle world champion, Gascon is not adverse to offering her rivals advice before a race.
“I remember when we raced in the 100m breaststroke SB9 heats at London 2012,” recalled Gimenez. “I like wearing my swimming eyewear’s straps on my swimming hat although they can fill with water when I dive into the pool. Before that race, Sarai asked me if it was not uncomfortable for me and I answered that it was not.
“Right after the race started, my eyewear was already full of water. It was terrible. I thought about what Sarai had told me every one of those 100 metres.”
The two friends do not meet very often as they usually train and compete in different places.
However, every time they do, it is as if time had never passed.
“Every time we meet, it is as if we would have talked the day before!” said Gimenez, who won two gold medals at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games.
“We know how to separate our friendship from the sporting competition.”
Gascon, who sealed two silver and one bronze medal at London 2012, added: “Daniela is charming. Being both Spanish-speakers helps as well, of course.
“We have shared so many finals, including the 100m breaststroke SB9 one at London 2012, but have never had a problem. On the contrary, I get very happy when she does well and we always encourage each other.”
With five months to go until Rio 2016, Gimenez and Gascon already anticipate what sharing another Paralympic Games together will be like.
“Making it to a Paralympic podium would be a dream come true. And is there anything better than sharing it with a good friend?” said Gimenez.
Gascon added: “We have never climbed onto a podium together, even though we have been competing for so many years. The Rio Games would be the perfect scenario for that.”
The Funchal 2016 IPC Swimming European Open Championships will take place between 30 April and 7 May and will feature 453 athletes from 52 countries.
Morning sessions begin at 9:00am (WET) each day and evening sessions at 5:00pm and all coverage will be livestreamed at the Funchal 2016 website.
Free tickets are also still available for download at Funchal2016.com.
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.