How I got into para-athletics: Cuba’s Yunidis Castillo

The sprinter who is Cuba’s most successful Paralympian gives us an insight into how she started out in athletics 16 Apr 2016
Yunidis Castillo of Cuba competes in the Women's 100m T46 heats at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Yunidis Castillo of Cuba competes in the Women's 100m T46 heats at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

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With Rio 2016 less than 150m days away, Cuba’s Yunidis Castillo will be one of the athletes to look out for at Latin America’s first ever Paralympic Games.

Here the T47 sprinter, who has won five Paralympic gold medals, talks about her life-changing car accident and how that experience made her decide to take up athletics.

In 2015, Castillo won two golds at the Parapan American Games, and one gold and two silvers at the Doha 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships.

Here’s how Yunidis got into para-sport.

“The truth is I did not like athletics when I was at school. Even though I was among the best, I preferred judo, which was the main sport I practised during my childhood. However, I have always been fast so I usually got selected to join my school’s athletics team.

I used to compete against other schools but never saw myself as an athlete, competing at major international events. I was a very good student as well, especially in social sciences, but not particularly keen on studying mathematics. I was definitely better with letters than with numbers.

When I was 10-years-old, I had this life-changing car accident and I suddenly realised I could not practise judo anymore. Since I have always been a sports-fan, I knew I had to try something else.

It was then that it was suggested I take up athletics, since I was so good at it. I did some research and came up with para-athletics. I tried, I liked it and have not stopped since then. The first competition I took part in was the Mar del Plata 2003 Parapan American Games, winning the gold medal both in the women’s 200m and in the long jump events.

That was the beginning of a long career that has taken me to unimaginable places.”


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.