Children from more than 50 schools filled the Brazilian Paralympic Training Centre from 20-25 March for the 2017 Youth Parapan American Games. In those six days, the packed stands vibrated as spectators watched athletes from the 19 participating countries compete.
Many watched the action for the first time. Ten-year-old Nicole had never seen a wheelchair basketball match. Pedro, another fan of Brazil, understood the sport as he has played wheelchair basketball to two years, and enjoyed watching other youths play at a high level. Volunteer Paulo, from the Sports Secretariat of Sao Paulo, brought his sons and wife to spend the day at the Centre and said it was a great learning experience.
Brazil and Mexico faced off in the wheelchair basketball final, and the choreography of the volunteers during time outs of the game got Felipe dancing to the music. Felipe has been training in boccia at the Sports Association for the Handicapped. His parents Killiam and Fernanda said that watching the Parapans was a new and interesting experience for both them and their son.
Fans especially enjoyed the football 7-a-side final between Brazil and Argentina. Henrique participated in the Paralympics School in 2015 and watching it made him want to play the sport again.
"It was really cool to play here last year, the structure is very good,” Henrique said. “I even miss it when I see them play.”
Sao Paulo 2017 featured a record over 800 athletes from 19 countries competing across 12 sports: athletics, boccia, football 5, football 7, goalball, judo, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, table tennis, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis.
The last edition at 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.