Paralympic medallists talk importance of Youth Parapans

Brazil’s Mateus Evangelista, Veronica Hipolito, Tallison Glock and Lorena Spoladore say the Youth Parapans are fundamental in strengthening the countries’ grassroots. 13 Mar 2017
Two girls in track suits

Brazil's Veronia Hipolito and Jenifer Martins Dos Santos at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games

ⒸJon Blacker
By Sao Paulo 2017

Since its first edition in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, in 2005, the Youth Parapan American Games have been a unique platform for young athletes from the Americas to launch their sporting careers.

Many of them later qualified for and won medals at the Paralympic Games, such the cases of Brazilian track and field athletes Mateus Evangelista and Lorena Spoladore.

Evangelista won three golds at the Buenos Aires 2013 Youth Parapan American Games and, three years later, made it to his first Paralympics on home soil, in Rio, where he took silver in the men’s long jump T37. The 23-year-old finished behind China’s Guangxu Shang.

Spoladore also participated in Buenos Aires 2013, claiming three golds and one silver. Three years later, she made her Paralympic debut in Rio, winning silver in the women’s 4x100m T11-13 and bronze in the long jump T11.

“Buenos Aires 2013 was one of my first international events and was very important for me because it shows you how it is like to compete on a high level,” the 21-year-old said.

“The Youth Parapan American Games are also important for the athlete’s renewal process in each country. Sao Paulo 2017 will be more special because it will be held at the Brazilian Paralympic Centre, what will bring greater visibility to the competition.”

Other Brazilian athletes who claimed multiple golds at the 2013 Youth Parapans and later reached the podium at the Paralympics are Rio 2016 swimming two-time medallist Talisson Glock and sprinter Veronica Hipolito, who won one silver and one bronze in Rio.

“A Youth Parapans is the closest experience to a Parapan American Games or even a Paralympic Games that a young athlete will have,” said Hipolito.

“Many athletes from many different sports and countries gather to compete at one specific event. I made many friends from across the Americas in Buenos Aires, in 2013. The Youth Parapans are so much fun!”

Around 900 athletes, aged 12-20 years old, from 20 countries are expected to participate in Sao Paulo, with 12 sports being contested: athletics, boccia, football 5, football 7, goalball, judo, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, table tennis, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis.

Buenos Aires 2013 attracted more than 600 athletes from 16 countries, who competed across 10 sports. Brazil topped the medal table and 15 countries reached the podium at least once.

Barquisimeto, Venezuela, staged the inaugural edition in 2005, with athletes from 10 countries competing, whilst a total of 14 countries attended the event in Bogota, Colombia, in 2009.

For more information, visit Sao Paulo 2017’s website.