Santiago 2023 Review: Douglas Matera leads Brazil's gold medal rush in the pool

Brazilian swimmer participates in eight of his country's 66 victories in the Chilean capital, world champions Carlos Serrano, Nelson Crispin and Sara Vargas take Colombia to second place while USA's Paralympic champion Evan Austin makes successful return and Vicente Almonacid puts host nation on the top of the podium 27 Nov 2023
A male swimmer with a cap of Brazil celebrating in the pool
Brazilian Para swimmer Douglas Matera competed in eight races at Santiago 2023 and grabbed gold in all of them, including six individual events
ⒸJavier Valdes/Santiago 2023
By World Para Swimming

Manchester 2023 world champion Douglas Matera spearhead Brazil’s gold medal rush in Para swimming at the Santiago 2023 Parapan American Games, which ended on Sunday (26 November) in Chile.

Brazil topped the podium in 66 events during seven days of Para swimming at the Centro Acuatico Estadio Nacional, more than all other participant nations combined. Thirty-year-old Matera was involved in eight of those 66 Brazilian victories. There were 109 new Parapan American Games records set in Chile, 53 in women’s events and 56 in men’s races.

Colombia finished in second place in the medals table with 20 gold, followed by Mexico and USA with 11 each. Argentina (nine), hosts Chile and Canada with one each were the other nations to top the podium.

Brazil’s Matera triumphed in six individual events (men’s 50m freestyle S13, 100m backstroke S12, 100m butterfly S12, 100m freestyle S12, 200m individual medley SM13 and 400m freestyle S13) and added two relay golds to the count (mixed 4x100m freestyle 49 points and mixed 4x100m medley 49 points).

“My goal was to be competitive in as many races as possible and take at least one gold. The feeling is amazing, I’m still trying to understand what it means because it is unbelievable,” said Matera, the reigning world champion in the men’s 100m butterfly S12 who also grabbed a gold in the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay 49 points at Manchester 2023. 

In Santiago, he had the chance to compete with his brother Thomaz who picked one silver and three bronze medals.

There were more Brazilian world champions adding extra kilos to their luggage in the Chilean capital. Maria Carolina Santiago, Gabriel Araujo and Gabriel Bandeira took five gold medals each. 

Santiago joined Douglas Matera in the relay wins, and also finished first in the women’s 50m freestyle S12, 100m freestyle S12 and 100m butterfly S12.

Araujo won the men’s 50m freestyle S2, 50m backstroke S2, 100m freestyle S2, 100m backstroke S2 and 200m backstroke S2.
S14-swimmer Bandeira’s victories came in the men’s 100m backstroke, 100m butterfly, 100m breaststroke, 200m freestyle and 200m individual medley. 

Colombian stars

Carlos Serrano led Colombia with four triumphs in Santiago, including in the men’s 100m breaststroke SB8 in which he won the world title this year in Manchester. His other victories arrived in the men’s 50m freestyle S7, 100m freestyle S8 and 200m individual medley SM7.
The other Colombian world champions at Manchester 2023 grabbed three gold medals each. Sara Vargas won the women’s 100m backstroke S7, 100m freestyle S7 and 200m individual medley SM7, while Nelson Crispin won the men’s 50m butterfly S6, 100m breaststroke SB6 and 200m individual medley SM6. 

“We have a lot of talent [in the Colombian team] and we always work hard. Now there is not much time left and I’m looking forward at being in Paris,” Vargas said, already making plans for next year’s Paralympic Games.

Maria Paula Barrera also contributed with three victories to the Colombian total in the S10 class (50m freestyle, 100m freestyle and 400m freestyle). 

Mexico finished with as many gold medals as the United States (11) but claimed the third place in the standings due to one more silver medal (23-22). 

Diego Lopez Diaz was the most successful Mexican swimmer at Santiago 2023 with three victories (men’s 50m freestyle S3, 50m backstroke S3 and 200m freestyle S3) followed by Nely Miranda, Angel Camacho and Matilde Alcazar with two gold medals each.

Almonacid leads Chile

USA’s Paralympic champion Evan Austin had a successful return to the pool winning the same event that gave him gold at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. He took a break from the sport after the Games and made his comeback in Chile touching the wall in first place in the men’s 50m butterfly S7. 

“I stepped away from the sport to do some professional development and explore some options post-swimming career,” Austin said. “What ended up being the deciding factor [to return] was that I did what I set out to accomplish as a kid, which was I got to win some medals for Team USA. But my family wasn’t there [at Tokyo 2020]. So, if I can maybe repeat something like that with my family and friends in the audience, that would just mean the world, put a cherry on top of a fun career.”

Vicente Almonacid made sure the Chilean national anthem played in front of the home crowd at the Centro Acuatico with his win in the men’s 200m individual medley SM8. 

“I have been to Paralympic Games, World Championships, I have also competed in Parapan American Games and World Series around the world, but nothing really compares to it,” Almonacid said. “There is nothing like having the whole audience supporting you, all supporting Chile.”

Complete results from Para swimming events at Santiago 2023 are available here

All Para swimming medallists at this year's Parapan Am Games are here.

The list of Parapan American records broken at Santiago 2023 can be found here.