“The Youth Parapans taught me to believe in myself, fight until the very end and set high goals because with confidence and perseverance I can achieve them one day."
In March 2017, swimmer Maria de Jesus Trujillo won Peru’s first medal at a Youth Parapan Am Games when she claimed silver in the women’s 50m freestyle S6. But just three years earlier, the youngster did not even know what Para sports were.
“Up until 2015, I had no idea Paralympic sports existed. Actually, I did not practice any kind of sport when I was a little girl,” she said. “But I got up my courage and took up swimming in 2015. I was then that I was first introduced to Para swimming, but still did not think about competing.”
After some good performances on the national stage, the 17-year-old was called up to Peru’s national team to compete at the Sao Paulo 2017 Youth Parapan American Games.
“I decided to go although I was nervous as I had never competed at an international competition before,” said Trujillo. “I was impressed by the huge number and the talent of the athletes who came from Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Argentina. I felt a bit intimidated even.”
Despite her inexperience, Trujillo delivered one of the most-talked performances of the event, making history for Peru by winning silver.
“The Youth Parapans taught me to believe in myself, fight until the very end and set high goals because with confidence and perseverance I can achieve them one day,” she said.
Trujillo also admitted that she may try “longer distances in the future” as she has noticed “I might be better at them.”
Her success did not come unnoticed as the Lima 2019 Organising Committee chose Trujillo to become an ambassador for the Parapan American Games alongside Para athletes Pilar Jauregui, Efrain Sotacuro and Pablo de Vinatea, to promote Para sports across the country.
“I had no idea that I was going to become an ambassador; I was so excited when I received the news,” she said. “I am very happy and honoured, and feel a great responsibility. Everyone is working very hard to make these Games even better than Toronto 2015 and Guadalajara 2011.”
As part of Lima 2019’s legacy, Trujillo pictures a bright future for people with impairment living in Peru, in the upcoming years. “With the improvement of sports facilities in Lima, I firmly believe that Paralympic sports will grow in Peru after the Games,” she said.
“With our performances at Lima 2019, we are going to inspire a lot of people to engage with the Paralympic Movement and more importantly with sports in Peru. We need the help of all Peruvians to make this country more accessible for all.”
More information is available on Lima 2019’s website.