Judoka Henry Borges, the Parapan American Games champion, will become the first Uruguayan athlete to compete at three Paralympic Games when he competes at Rio 2016 this September.
The 33-year-old, who won gold at Toronto 2015 in the men’s under 60kg class, is hoping topping the podium last year will act as a catalyst to further success.
“It is an honour to represent Uruguay at a third Paralympic Games,” said Borges, who failed to make it past the first round at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.
“I feel proud and believe this is a major accomplishment since judo is an amateur sport in my country, where everyone plays football.”
The men’s under 60kg is a very competitive category with many strong contenders such as Azerbaijan’s London 2012 gold medallist Ramin Ibrahimov, Algeria’s reigning world champion Mouloud Noura and Uzbekistan’s world No. 1 Sherzod Namozov.
However, Borges remains optimistic. “I see myself as a Paralympic champion in my dreams. I know it is going to be hard, but any medal, no matter the colour, will be welcomed,” he said.
Borges, who finished last season No. 11 in the world, had to face a number of problems to achieve Rio 2016 qualification.
“Lack of funding was the main issue,” he explained. “I did not have money to buy a judogi and even less to travel abroad to compete.
“Nevertheless, I managed to participate in Toronto 2015, my last opportunity to qualify for the Paralympics, and I won.
“I had been dreaming about winning the gold for months.”
Toronto 2015 gold was his second Parapan American medal, following a silver he won at Rio 2007. “I keep both medals inside the same wooden box together with all the others I have won throughout my career,” he said.
Whilst he prepares for Rio, Borges expects Latin America’s first Paralympic Games to help raise awareness of Para sports in the continent.
“I believe Rio 2016 is going to be unforgettable. This Games will serve as a platform to help develop Paralympic sports in the Americas,” he said.
“Besides, Brazil is the perfect country to host the Games because they are really good at sports and people there are very nice.”
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.