Little stories of great figures from the Paralympic Games

For a week now, the international sports calendar has been animated by the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, with activity until next Sunday (DeporTV televising) and 22 sports that distribute 540 medals (against 339 for the Olympics). So far, Argentina has won three thanks to the silver of the swimmer Pipo Carlomagno and the bronzes of the sprinter Yanina Martínez and the pitcher Antonella Ruiz Díaz. Here, a review by some of the great figures of the contest, consecrated or in search of being one, and with the presence of one of the highest hopes of the Albicelestes.

The great Mehrzad

If it is about Paralympic stars, Iranian Morteza Mehrzad Selakjani does not go unnoticed. Of course, its 2.46 meters in height contribute to the cause. The seated volleyball player He is the second tallest person in the world, behind the Turkish Sultasn Kösen (2.51), and at 33 years old he is a sports reference in his country, who was a gold medal in the discipline at the 2016 Games. But his wake it wasn’t always so bright.

“Volleyball changed my life,” he said on several occasions. The athlete suffers acromegaly, a hormonal disorder that triggers the secretion of growth hormones in adolescence and causes an increase in the size of the bones, especially in the hands and face in adulthood, causing gigantism.

At 16, Mehrzad was 1.90 years old and dreamed of becoming a basketball star, but a pelvic injury from a bicycle accident cut short his aspirations. The doctors and Mehrzad himself found out about his condition after several surgeries and found that the then adolescent’s right leg had stopped growing (now it is 15 centimeters shorter), tying him to a wheelchair so he can move more easily.

He would be seated and thanks to his endless arms where he would find again, years later, a path that he thought was lost. Depressed by his condition, Mehrzad wandered studies of television to sustain, going to programs dedicated to people with “unusual” talents. It was in one of them that the Iranian coach, Hadi Rezaei, laid eyes on him and Mehrzad started playing volleyball at the age of 22.

So far from Tokyo, Iran and Mehrzad advance pristine so far: 3-0 triumphs over Germany, Brazil and China to reach the semifinals, where they will meet Bosnia and Herzegovina on Thursday from 8.30 (Argentine time). The giant, meanwhile, has scored 39 points and is the fourth highest scorer of the appointment.

Against wind, tide and others

Afghan sprinter Hossain Rasouli He finally debuted this Tuesday after a journey that included going into exile in France after escaping from his country and arriving late for the Games. Consequently, Rasouli did not compete in his specialty -the 100 meters were done last week- but he did it in high jump, which allowed him to finally represent the Middle Eastern nation.

Hossain Rasouli in action. (AFP)

The 26-year-old athlete, who lost his left hand to a mine blast, made three jumps during the test with a mark of 4.46 meters that left him last, behind the gold of Cuban Robiel Sol (7.46). Rasouli was able to join this modality because in the T47 high jump, the competitors have limited movement of one arm or the absence of limbs.

Against all odds, the arrival of the athlete with Taekwondo player Zakia Khudadadi, the first woman to represent her country in the Paralympics that will compete this WednesdayIt was a surprise and a joy for the movement. Both athletes were evacuated from the country in “a global operation” and even during the opening ceremony the Afghan flag was paraded without any athlete from that country.

Espinillo, the one with the goals

One of the great appearances of these Games for the Argentine delegation was that of Maximiliano Espinillo, genius and figure of Los Murcielagos. The Cordoba player has scored five goals in three games (the team scored seven), four of them goals-of-espinillo-los-bats-beat-a-esp “> some real goals, and commands the dreams of the national football team 5 for the blind, that the Thursday from 4.30 he will face China in the semifinals.

“I was blind when I was four years old. I was born and raised in Villa El Nylon, in the city of Córdoba, in a house where it rained more inside than outside. They are my roots, and I do not deny them, “Maxi said. in an interview with the magazine La Garganta Poderosa in the preview of the contest.

With a past as a street vendor like his parents, Espinillo has played for the National Team since 2012 and these are his second Paralympics, far from when he managed to play in the neighborhood: “He would put a bag on the ball, or grab a plastic one, poke it and put stones in it to make it make noise, because blind people are guided a lot by hearing”.

The “Paralympic Pele”

Football for the blind also has another great star, but from the opposite side of the street. The Brazilian Jeferson Gonçalves, better known as Jefinho, is for many the best player today. Three-time champion of the Games (2008, 2012 and 2016) and the World Cup (2010, 2014 and 2018), the “Paralympic Pelé” went blind at the age of 7 and has played for the national team since he was 17.

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“Football, for me, is everything. Without football I would not be who I am today. I am a better person thanks to sport and I have what I have today thanks to football 5. I would like to be remembered as an athlete who gave the best he has, who tried hard, surpassed himself and managed to realize his dreams within sport, “he revealed in conversation with the official site of the Games So far in Tokyo, Brazil won all three of their games, with 11 goals for and none against, and They will meet Morocco in the semifinals on Thursday at 7.30.

A farewell legend

He arrived in Tokyo with 24 medals on his back and, after a week of competition, he already has 27. Brazilian Daniel Dias is the most winning swimmer in the history of the Games and this Wednesday, in the 50-meter freestyle, he will say goodbye forever of the competition at age 32.

“I never imagined that I would be able to go that far. If I had written a letter when I started my career 16 years ago with everything I wanted to achieve, it would not have been as perfect as it has been,” the Campinas-born explained to the site paralympic.org . Dias has a level 5 disability (malformation in both arms and the right leg) taking into account the 10 levels contemplated in Paralympic swimming, and added three bronzes to his collection (composed of 14 golds, 7 silvers and 3 bronzes) So far in Tokyo 2020, in the 100 and 200 meters freestyle and the 4×50 relays. This Wednesday, from 7.29, he will seek to say goodbye in the 50 meters as the legend that he is.

Dias celebrates after his work in the 200 meters. (AFP)

Double front

Several of the athletes participating in Tokyo are also health workers and they have been in the forefront of the fight against the pandemic. The Dutch rowing champion and doctor Annika van der Meer (It was silver in mixed doubles), the Spanish triathlete and doctor Susana rodriguez (gold in the PTVI category) and the Japanese cyclist and pharmacist Keiko Sugiura (gold in the C1-3 road time trial at age 50) are some of the people who have been training and working overtime to save lives.

Still the queen

At his first performance in Tokyo, Cuban sprinter Omara Durand claimed the sixth gold medal of her career by taking first place in the 400 meters of the T12 class for the visually impaired. The record of the one born in Santiago 29 years ago and nicknamed the “Queen of Speed” is impressive: eleven titles and four world records in addition to her (for now) six Paralympic medals.

Of course, nothing as incredible as his undefeated: The Cuban has not lost in the great championships for ten years, when he fell in Beijing 2008. Durand’s next finals – qualifying through – will be Thursday at 7:20 in the final of the 100 meters and on Saturday at 7:39 in the final of the 200.

From Athens to today

The Russian nationalized American Jessica Long arrived in Tokyo with 23 medals in its showcase (13 gold, six silver and four bronze), a harvest that began in Athens 2004, when the swimmer won three golds at just 12 years old. Long was born in Russia under the name Tatiana with a congenital condition called peroneal hemimelia and she was adopted a year later by a family from Baltimore. Soon both legs were amputated and she learned to walk with prostheses since she was a child (she competes without them).

Well known in her country for participating in some advertisements, Long did not take long to increase his medal table in Tokyo: gold in the 200 meter medley, silver in the 400 free and bronze in the 100 backstroke. Like little, he has yet to compete in the 100 breaststroke and butterfly.

Trademark

There are two disciplines that are exclusive to the Paralympic Games, golbol and boccia. And as such, they are very curious for the newcomer viewer. The golbol or goalball, originated as an activity for soldiers with injuries from World War II, consists of two teams of three players each covering a nine meter long arc. Blindfolded, the competitors have to throw the ball (with a bell inside) with their hands and try to score against the three opposing goalkeepers.

Boccia, for its part, has its inspiration in the classic neighborhood game of bocce, where players -with neurological impairment- have to approach the target with their attempts or even connect it to score points. Argentina has five representatives in the boccia: Stefania Ferrando, Ailen Flores, Jonatan Aquino, Luis Cristaldo and Mauricio Ibarbue.

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