“I was a member of the Olympic and Paralympic teams for some years and won three Paralympic medals, among other achievements.”
“It was a hard shot but I was very focused and felt no emotions at all.”
Spain’s Antonio Rebollo was “like a robot” when he became the only Paralympian to have lit an Olympic cauldron, after shooting a flaming arrow to mark the beginning of Barcelona 1992.
The former Para archer competed at three different Paralympic Games between 1984 and 1992, winning two silvers and one bronze. But it was that shot at the 1992 Olympic Games’ Opening Ceremony that led him to fame.
Rebollo received the Olympic flame from Spain’s basketball player Juan Antonio San Epifanio and took 10 seconds to shoot the flaming arrow, which landed in the six square metres cauldron located around 90 metres high.
“I had been working for a year with Dr. Mariano Espinosa, a sophrology specialist, who taught me some exercises to keep my body relaxed and my mind calmed,” explained Rebollo, who was 37 years old at the time.
“Sophrology helps you avoid any potential distractions and to keep yourself fully focused on the target.
“Being like a machine was the secret of the success. The following day I started to realise what I had done because I was called from many TV shows and everybody congratulated me in the streets.”
Rebollo was a member of the Spanish Olympic and Paralympic archery teams, which is why he was called for a test run in Barcelona, one year before the beginning of the Games.
“We used to practice at the Montjuic Castle, where we had to shoot the arrow over a bar located as high as the Cauldron would be,” he said.
Even though the lightning of the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Cauldron has been shown on TV and watched on YouTube thousands of times, Rebollo said he had never seen the entire video until last May.
“I was shown the video during my visit to the University of Chapingo in Mexico, where I gave a talk. What I do see every year in the newspapers is the image of myself about to shoot the flaming arrow,” he said.
Rebello admitted that he would not be so well-known if he had not participated in Barcelona 1992’s Opening Ceremony. However, his sporting career is what matters the most to him.
“I was a member of the Olympic and Paralympic teams for some years and won three Paralympic medals, among other achievements,” he said.
“But I understand that I will be mostly remembered because of this Games, which was important because it helped raise awareness of Para sports in Spain.”
Editor’s note: “Throwback Thursday” is a feature series published on Paralympic.org twice a month, bringing you the stories of some of the top Paralympic athletes of the past.