Tunisia’s multiple Paralympic champion Raoua Tlili has a taste for winning and she is determined to keep doing just that at this summer’s World Para Athletics Championships in London, Great Britain.
The 27-year-old has stood at the top of the podium at all three of the last World Championships and Paralympic Games, winning eight major gold medals.
“When you taste the joy, you don’t want to lose it and I plan to do that in July at the 2017 World Championships in London,” said Tlili, who won discus and shot put F41 gold at Rio 2016.
“My goal this year is two gold medals at the London 2017 World Championships, and to improve my world records.”
Winning the Paralympic discus title last year was particularly special – the Tunisian had missed out on the top spot in that event at both the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Paralympic Games.
This time it was an emphatic win, with a new world record to boot.
“Getting double gold in Rio 2016 and breaking a world record was a great achievement for me, which I got after fatigue, patience and determination,” she explained.
“The first time that I was on the podium I decided that I wanted to reach the top every time. There is a different feeling between obtaining a silver medal and obtaining a gold medal.
“I always challenge myself before challenging my opponents. For me this means more self-confidence and that there is nothing called ‘impossible.’”
While Tlili credits her coach Dali Ben Zina and the support of the Tunisian Paralympic Committee for much of her success, the welcome she received when she returned home from Brazil underlined just how much she is admired in Tunisia.
“The first celebration was at the airport when we arrived, where I felt the joy of the Tunisian people, the National Paralympic Committee and the government.
“The second and special celebration was within my small family when I returned to my hometown Gafsa, in southern Tunisia.
“The third and important celebration was when we were welcomed by the President of the Republic in the Carthage Palace and presented with medals of sporting merit.”
Of course, Tlili is not the only Tunisian sportswoman vying for the top spot on the podium this summer.
Samar Ben Koelleb clinched shot put silver behind Tlili at Rio 2016, while at in the discus her teammate Fathia Amaimia won bronze. Gold is by no means a given, but the Tunisian takes pleasure from their camaraderie.
“I enjoy competing with Samar and Fathia, there is a spirit among us. We always encourage each other. We all compete for one goal, raising the Tunisian flag.”
Tlili made her senior international a decade ago – at her first World Championships in 2006 she threw the discus 21.90m to win bronze; now her best stands at 33.38m.
Her progression in the shot put is equally impressive, from 6.73m at the 2006 World Championships to 10.19m at Rio 2016.
The prospect of continuing that upward trend is one she relishes:
“The great confidence in my coach makes me able to perform at my best, leaves me respecting the guidelines and pushes me to work better.
“In Rio I finished nearly two metres ahead of my rivals in the shot put, and more than six metres clear in the discus.
“I still feel I can throw more in each of the events and there is definite progress in the discus and shot put. I broke world records last year and aspire to do so in the future with improved results and performances.”
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