Yanina Martínez on a learning pathway

Paralympic champion adapts to new reality after coronavirus outbreak 17 Dec 2020
Yanina Andrea Martinez
Yanina Martinez gave Argentina their second Paralympic title in 20 years at Rio 2016
ⒸGetty Images
By Laura Couto | For IPC

Sports has taken Paralympic champion Yanina Martínez on a learning pathway since she was first introduced into Para athletics. Most recently, the Argentinian had to adapt to the new circumstances following the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent lockdown.

“Yani (Martinez) is not used to being at home for a long period of time as she is always travelling because of the training camps and competitions. During the lockdown she cried and told us that she missed the track as well as the stadium,” her mother Claudia Chávez said.  

“We stayed in touch with her coach Martín Arroyo during the lockdown. We would call him with Tamara, Yani's younger sister, so she could follow her training routine. We got some weights and other training elements with what we had at home.” 

Despite the challenges, Martinez left her fears behind and adapted to the new reality.

“When they returned to the track, she took her hand sanitizer, her mask and everything she needed to protect herself and others. She even cleaned the starting block before training,” her mother added. 


Martínez, who has cerebral palsy, is thankful for the lessons and opportunities she has gained through sports. 

Her mother recalled: “She started swimming because she had a small body and needed to increase her strength. She also wanted to make new friends. This is where professor Martín Arroyo comes into the picture.”

Arroyo, who has been coaching the multiple World medallist since 2007, added: “When I finished my degree in Physical Education, Malvina Biglione, an experienced Paralympic sports professional, offered me to work with the group of kids who practised swimming and we organised an athletics recreational team. That is when I invited Yani to join the rest of the group.”


In 2009, Martínez received a call to join the Argentinian Para athletics team. Her routine suddenly changed and found herself travelling regularly to attend training camps and different competitions across the world. Therefore, Yanina needed to learn to manager her time. 

Her performance and effort quickly paid off: she won medals in almost every tournament she competed in, including Nationals, World Championships and Parapan American Games. Her early success was a concern for Arroyo.

“Yani knew that once she finished the race she would receive a reward. But she needed to learn from the other side of the story. That's why, in 2014, I asked her to be allowed to participate in events against able-bodied athletes. We received permission and participated in tournaments around the country”, her coach said. 

“She ran against Victoria Woodward and Vanessa Wohlgemuth, two of the best able-bodied athletes from Argentina, and that raised her level. The experience of ‘learning how to lose’ was very important to improve her attitude during the competitions.”


“She loves to travel. Sport changed her life and because of the pandemic she had to spend more time at home. But when she sees a plane on TV, she says she misses that,” explained Claudia. 

This year, Yanina aimed to defend her title as Paralympic champion, but her dream has been postponed for a few more months. 

Arroyo added: “Yani is currently second in the world rankings and we are working in order to achieve the goals we have set. We want to return to the Paralympic podium in Tokyo.”