Rio 2016 Paralympic Torch tours NatalThird day of relay, in northeastern Brazil, has inspiration as its theme and Paralympic athletes in prominent roles as torchbearers. 04 Sep 2016
Continuing its epic journey around Brazil, the Rio 2016 Paralympic Torch Relay visited the northeastern city of Natal on Saturday (3 September).
Among the torchbearers were medal-winning Paralympian athletes and local residents who have dedicated their lives to helping people with an impairment.
“I got to carry the Olympic torch and now I get to carry the Paralympic one,” said Para Pan-American weightlifting champion Maria Silva after her leg of the relay in Natal, the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Norte. “It’s a happiness I will never forget.”
After beginning in the capital, Brasília, and visiting Belém on Friday (2 September), the torch relay travels next to two more cities – São Paulo and Joinville – before arriving in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday 6 September, the day before the opening ceremony at the legendary Maracanã Stadium.
In each city, the relay will celebrate the Paralympic and Rio 2016 values: in Brasília, it was equality; in Belém, determination; in Natal, inspiration; in São Paulo, transformation; in Joinville, courage; and in Rio de Janeiro, passion.
In Natal, the emotion of being the first torchbearer of the day was enough to bring Ana Albuquerque to tears. She has worked with Paralympic sport for 14 years. “For anyone that works in this area, this is the most important moment,” she said.
Several Paralympic medal-winning athletes participated in the relay in Natal on Saturday, including Francisco Avelino, who won three swimming medals in four Games appearances from Sydney 2000 to London 2012, and Andreonni Fabrizius, who won Paralympic gold medals at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.
“The emotion was the same I felt at Barcelona in 1992,” said Genezi Andrade, a swimmer who participated at five Paralympic Games. Barcelona was his first appearance at the Games, and a successful one at that: Andrade won a bronze medal.
Gledson Soares, the first Paralympic swimmer from Rio Grande do Norte, closed the Olympic torch relay in Natal at a special ceremony in the evening. Soares won bronze medals at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000.
“It's really emotional to know I was part of history,” Soares said. “I haven't swum for four years, but today felt like the closing of my career.”
Social media users across the planet can help virtually ‘light’ the flame each day by sending tweets using the hashtag #ParalympicFlame.