Mexican swimmers Raul and Juan Gutierrez became the two first medal winners of the Youth Parapan American Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Tuesday (21 March) after claiming gold and silver, respectively, in the men´s 100m freestyle S6.
“Winning this gold medal feels great to me, not only because it is my first major title but also because I can share it with my brother on the podium,” said 16-year-old Raul.
“Being Sao Paulo 2017´s first champion makes me feel very happy. Talented rivals make you a better swimmer. And my brother is one of them, which makes it double great.”
They took up swimming when they were kids and have not stopped since.
“We started because this sport is one of the healthiest,” said 15-year-old Juan. “We continued ‘till now, facing each other many times. But we have a healthy competition.
“We support each other and are always available when the other one needs something. We enjoy each other´s victories and want the other to perform the best he can in the pool.”
With the 2017 World Para Swimming Championships fast approaching, the brothers are hoping to qualify and compete in front of their home crowd in Mexico City, between 30 September-6 October.
“These first medals we won in Sao Paulo motivate us to continue working hard. They are a proof that we are doing things right,” said Raul.
“We want to qualify for this year´s World Championships to live the unique experience of competing in front of your family and friends.”
Although the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games and the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games are only two and three years away, respectively, the Gutierrez brothers believe it is not impossible to qualify for both events and even win medals.
“We would love to fulfill our dream of competing at a Parapan American and Paralympic Games together,” said Juan.
“Many athletes before us competed at the Youth Parapans and later reach the Paralympics. Tokyo 2020 would be a really tough but exciting challenge.”
The 12 sports at Sao Paulo 2017 are athletics, boccia, football 5, football 7, goalball, judo, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, table tennis, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis.
The 2017 Youth Parapan American Games will run until 25 March and feature a record over 800 athletes from 19 countries.
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.