Barranquilla became famous worldwide as popstar Shakira’s hometown but the Colombian City also hosts every year the country’s most important Para athletics and Para swimming competition.
In 2018, the four-day National Open will run until Sunday (21 October) with a record number of countries (15) and participants (893). A series of Paralympic and world medallists will be in action trying to hit qualification marks for the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games.
“This is one of the biggest events in the year and it is great that is happening in our country,” said veteran Para swimmer Moises Fuentes, who has three Paralympic medals to his name from Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.
“The level of the competition will be really high and it will have to deliver our best in front of our fans. We have done the best preparations for this competition,” Fuentes added.
He is one the three athletes responsible for Colombia’s seven Para swimming medals at Rio 2016. The trio will entertain the home fans at the Eduardo Movilla Aquatics Centre.
Class S7 swimmer Carlos Serrano took a gold, a silver and a bronze in Brazil. Nelson Crispin was the country’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony in Rio and then won three silver medals at the Aquatics Centre.
On the women’s side, Maria Paula Barrera is one of the most promising names in the Colombian team. She won six golds, one silver and one bronze at Sao Paulo 2017 and is looking forward to the first Parapan Am Games in Lima.
Among the visitors, Cuba will count with Rio 2016 champion and four-time Paralympic medallist Lorenzo Perez Escalona while two-time Paralympic champion Gustavo Sanchez leads Mexico.
Veteran and young stars in athletics
Thrower Mauricio Valencia will lead the hosts at the Rafael Cotes Athletics Stadium. The 30-year-old had two stamps dedicated to him by Colombia’s national postal service following his gold (javelin F34) and bronze (shot put F34) medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
Valencia also took gold in the men’s javelin F34 at the London 2017 World Championships. He will share the field with Argentina’s Rio 2016 silver medallist Hernan Urra.
The track will see a mix of experienced and promising athletes. Double Paralympic champion and London 2017 gold medallist sprinter Leinier Savon Pineda is the main star in the Cuban delegation.
Brazil will count with veteran eight-time Paralympic medallist Terezinha Guilhermina alongside sprinter Rodrigo Parreira, who took two medals at Rio 2016 and three at London 2017.
Among the region’s young stars who had a breakthrough at the Sao Paulo 2017 Youth Parapan Am Games are Aruba’s vision impaired sprinter Shenely Tromp and Argentina’s wheelchair racer Lucia Montenegro, who also took three silver medals at the Nottwil 2017 World Junior Championships.
Ecuador’s Daniel Carcelen is a men’s 400m silver medallist from London 2017 who just a few weeks later took gold in the men’s long jump in Nottwil.
Only 15 months ago, Costa Rica’s Sherman Guity was a promising able-bodied sprinter who had part of his leg amputated following a motorcycle crash. Now he is one of his country’s biggest medal hopes for Lima.