“Cuba have definitely improved in swimming in the last couple of years. We used to have really small teams when I started and now we can see teams like this one in Sao Paulo traveling and producing good results.”
Lorenzo Perez Escalona has come a long way as - in his own words - an “ambassador” for the Cuban swimming community in an athletics-dominated country. He can now finally see his efforts pay off as an increasing number of fellow countrymen take part in international competitions.
The four-time Paralympic medallist led a team of six Cubans who came to the Sao Paulo World Para Swimming World Series last week looking to follow the path of the island’s most accomplished swimmer.
Escalona himself knows the importance of a role model. His coach, Ernesto Garrido Oliva, was the sole Cuban Paralympic medallist in swimming when they started working together.
Eight years have gone by and four more medals have been tallied for the Caribbean country.
“Cuba have definitely improved in swimming in the last couple of years. We used to have really small teams when I started and now we can see teams like this one in Sao Paulo traveling and producing good results”, said the 33-year-old.
“We also have a gold medallist in me, so we are now showing that we don’t live exclusively off athletics. It’s good because swimming is also getting attention” he added.
There will be nothing better to inspire his teammates than a solid performance at the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games. He plans on repeating the success of Toronto 2015 where he scored three medals - two golds and a silver.
“That was a very good competition in Sao Paulo to warm up towards Lima 2019. My main rivals for Lima were probably here so it was a very good opportunity”, he said.
“I have been very satisfied with the times I have reached so far this season and I am confident things will be even better in Lima”, added the class S7 swimmer.
Lima 2019 will take place between 23 August and 1 September and will feature more than 1,800 athletes competing across 17 sports, replacing Toronto 2015 as the biggest Parapan American Games in history.