Winning two silvers at the Guadalajara 2011 Parapan American Games gave sprinter Yanina Martinez’s career a necessary boost which would help her claim her maiden Paralympic title in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, five years later.
The Argentinian finished second in both the women’s 100m and 200m T36 at that regional competition, her first major achievement as a Para athlete, and went on to win her country’s first Paralympic gold medal in 20 years, last September.
“Guadalajara 2011 was a very important event for me because at only 17 years old I could prove to myself that I was capable of achieving great things,” said Martinez.
Earlier in 2011, Martinez had competed in the Worlds in Christchurch, New Zealand, but left without a medal.
“Everything was new to me, I was taking part in my first international events,” she said.
“That year I competed for the first time against some of the rivals I still face and I was just cracking the top ten in the world rankings.
“Participating in my first Worlds was definitely great, but I consider claiming those two silvers at Guadalajara 2011 the big start of my career.”
Martinez followed a strict training plan ahead of the Parapan Ams, hoping to perform as she eventually did.
“I had just started working with who is currently my coach, Martin Arroyo, and began paying more attention to my diet, amongst other things,” she said.
“Guadalajara 2011 made me realise being a Para athlete requires a big responsibility.”
At London 2012, the Argentinian finished fourth in the women’s 100m T36 and was disqualified for obstructing a rival in the 200m T36, but Martinez knew she was young and would have another opportunity in four-years-time.
“In 2015, I won two Parapan American golds in Toronto, Canada, and one silver and one bronze at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar, so I knew Rio 2016 would be a great opportunity to top the Paralympic podium,” she said.
With a time of 14.46, Martinez crossed the finish line first in the 100m T36 at last month’s Paralympic Games and celebrated Argentina’s first gold in 20 years.
“After so many years of so much hard work, it was great to celebrate this achievement with my coach, my family and my friends, and share it with my compatriots,” she said.
“Now I have even more energy to go for more.”