“I was so focused on the race that the only thing I was feeling was the water. Nothing else. It was only me there swimming.”
When swimmer Betiana Basualdo topped the podium in the women's 100m freestyle S2 in 1996, she could never have imagined it would be twenty years before Argentina would win another Paralympic gold.
It took until Rio 2016 for the country to celebrate again, with sprinter Yanina Martinez winning the women’s 100m T36.
“I was in Rio happily celebrating Yanina’s victory,” said Basualdo. “It meant a lot for Argentina, but I would have preferred us not to wait 20 years to win another gold medal, but only four.”
Basualdo was a young 18-year-old when she achieved glory in Atlanta, USA, on her Paralympic debut.
“Everything was new to me, but at the same time I was not feeling nervous but confident about myself because I had already met my big objective of qualifying for my first Paralympic Games,” she said. “I was sure about what I wanted and had clear goals. I like to move slowly but surely.”
Basualdo showed what she was capable of at her first event, winning her maiden and only Paralympic title with a time of 3:09, ahead of compatriot Alejandra Perezlindo (3:11.02) and Spain’s Sara Carracelas (3:17.18).
“I was so focused on the race that the only thing I was feeling was the water. Nothing else. It was only me there swimming,” she recalled. “The first thing I saw when I touched in was the Argentinians celebrating. Then I checked the leaderboard to make sure I was the winner.
“I was still so concentrated that not even after winning I celebrated that much.”
She went on to claim silver in the women’s 50m freestyle and bronze in the 50m backstroke. “I never again had that feeling from the 100m freestyle again,” said Basualdo, who sealed her fourth and last Paralympic medal at Athens 2004, a bronze in that same event.
In Atlanta, the Argentinian delegation claimed two golds, two silvers and two bronzes, the country’s best performance over 14 Paralympic Games.
“When we came back, Para athletes started to receive grants as a result of our performance at the Atlanta Paralympics. It was an important recognition of our work,” she said.
Editor’s note: “Throwback Thursday” is a feature series published on Paralympic.org twice a month, bringing you some of the top Paralympic athletes of the past.