Spain’s six-time Paralympic champion Teresa Perales has dismissed talk of retirement, calling it a “distraction” ahead of her fifth Paralympic Games, stating that she is determined to continue her winning form in Rio de Janeiro in September.
The S5 swimmer was speaking before the 2016 IPC Swimming European Open Championships in Funchal, Portugal, the last major competition before Rio 2016.
Perales, who has held the 100m freestyle title since the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, said:
“In the last day [at Rio 2016] it’s my very best race, the 100m freestyle, and I want to be very focused and I don’t want any distractions, and thinking about giving up is a distraction,” Perales said.
“So I need to be focused and I need to win and it’s the only thing I can think about.”
In Funchal, Perales will swim against some of the world’s best, such as double world and Paralympic champion Sarah-Louise Rung of Norway.
The Spaniard has four European titles to defend between 1-7 May and has been training hard, including competing recently at the Rio 2016 Test Event.
“I have been in Sierra Nevada for 21 days and then I went to the Rio Test Event so I’ve more or less just arrived,” Perales said. “The feeling is really good. The Test Event was good and the races too so I hope Funchal will go well.
“I have the minimum qualifying times for Rio so I don’t have any pressure. I only want to see if I recover well between all the events because I will swim every day. I have seven races in seven days, so I need to see if I can do it, so in Rio I can swim very well.”
Aside from her own preparations, Perales also reflected on the new Spanish swimmers coming through the system. The country has focused its efforts on developing youngsters, many of whom are in Funchal to experience a major event.
“We have some projects, one of which has been running for four years, more for the physically disabled such as cerebral palsy and visually impaired and I think they are doing very well,” Perales said. “We tried to pick up some swimmers from around Spain. We try to motivate them and I think this is a good chance for them to be with us and share the experience.”
As one of the most experienced swimmers on the Spanish team, 40-year-old Perales tries to mentor her developing teammates. Having made her international debut in 1998 and then competing in her first Paralympic Games at Sydney 2000, she has a lot to offer her new teammates, as well as being on the International Paralympic Committee’s Athletes’ Council.
“I try to speak with everyone and tell them not to be nervous,” Perales said of her role within the team. “You have to enjoy and look to the future and not just to this point because this is just the beginning. You have a very big career ahead of you and you only have to do two things: commit and believe in yourself.”
Turning to how she has adapted her own approach as she has progressed through her career, Perales revealed that the key to her ongoing success is flexibility.
“I try to do different things because of my age. I need to do different things. Now I handcycle almost every day to do cardio. I don’t swim as many medal events as before because I don’t recover as fast anymore.
“As I get older I’m going for quality not quantity, to find the perfect balance between the two.
“But I think for people with my age and experience, it is the mind. It is about how you reach your best and how you think and dream about your objectives.”
Live coverage and results from the 2016 IPC Swimming European Open Championships will be available between 1-7 May at www.Funchal2016.com. Morning sessions begin at 9:00am (WET) and evening sessions at 5:00pm (WET) each day.
Live updates and behind the scenes coverage will be posted at @IPCSwimming and Facebook.com/IPCSwimming or search #Funchal2016.