Mexico's Gustavo Sanchez on the magic of diving into challenges

‘Now I am a completely different Gustavo. Sport gives you that confidence’ 25 May 2022 By PARA SPORT

Mexico’s Gustavo Sanchez was only six months old when he first experienced swimming.

From then on, he says, “all the magic happened”.

Starting with his first training sessions at age seven and moving on to his first national championships at age nine, his international debut and first World Championships medals at 16, Sanchez has progressed in the sport with incredible speed. 

At 18 years old, he went to his first Paralympic Games at London 2012 and won four medals there in the S4 class, including two gold, thus becoming Mexico’s most successful athlete at the multi-sport event.

In addition to his medal haul at London 2012, Sanchez has won multiple medals at the World Championships and Parapan American Games, and also set a number of Americas records in the pool.

His hefty medal collection aside, Sanchez credits swimming with giving him new friends, transforming his physique and boosting his confidence.

“Besides the fact that it gave me a second family, besides the fact that it has given me a shelter, it has given me a sense of growth. It has taught me a lot about how to approach life,” Sanchez said.

“It teaches you many things, doesn’t it? When you don’t want to practise anymore, when you feel tired, that’s when you have to give 300 percent more.”

The tougher strokes

Born with a congenital malformation of both legs and his left arm, the Mexican swimmer’s journey in sport has not come without challenges. After his breakthrough success at London 2012, he has struggled at the next editions of the Games, finishing off the podium at Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. 

However, Sanchez embraces these difficult moments and tries to see them in a positive light. 

“The challenges I have faced in my sport are many, beginning with the fact that you always have to swim against the tide. You always have to face your opponents, face the people who don’t believe in you at first, but you have to prove yourself to them,” Sanchez said.

“The best way to do it is with facts, with results, and it has always been like that. It has always been difficult, it has always been a battle with people, but you take it in a certain positive way, which motivates you, which gives you the drive to prove those people wrong.”

Now getting ready to prove the doubters wrong once again, at the Madeira 2022 World Para Swimming Championships, Sanchez is also encouraging others to do the same.

“Don’t be afraid! Whatever you want to do, if you want to practise a sport, do it, try it,” he said. “If I can do it and if all the athletes here can do it, you also can. Sport can definitely change a life. It can change it for the better because sport makes you grow.”