The second largest sporting event in the world has finally gone home. Thousands of athletes have ascended upon London, England, for the 2012 Summer Paralympics, which is second only to the Olympics themselves. The Paralympics got their start in London in 1948 by the determined efforts of Dr. Ludwig Guttman, who believed strongly in using sport as therapy for people who were injured during World War II.
Guttman intentionally organised his wheelchair games to coincide with the 1948 London Olympics, and just like that the international competition for men and women with disabilities was born. Now, 64 years later, the Paralympics Summer Games are returning to London.
Like the Olympics the best of the best have come to compete on the world’s biggest stage. Despite being blind, in a wheelchair, or mentally handicapped these athletes put on a show of incredible athletic prowess and ferocity. Even more impressive than the Olympic athletes, these men and women have already overcome a great obstacle in their lives and decided that being handicapped is no excuse.
Argentina will be well represented at this year’s competition with some medal hopeful teams and individual athletes. But even if they don’t make it to the podium, making it to the Paralympics is triumph in itself.
So it’s time again to grab your flag, paint you face in blue and white, and get comfy in front of the couch as the Indy highlights some of the many athletes at this year’s Paralympics’ Games.
Argentina will have very high podium hopes for a few athletes on its athletics team travelling to London after a strong showing in Guadalajara where the team won eight gold medals at the 2011 Para Pan-American Games.
Hernán Barreto is one of the athletes that is looking to run onto the podium in London 2012. Barreto won gold in both the men’s 100m and 200m in Guadalajara, Mexico, in the T35 category, T35 is for athletes with cerebral palsy.
According to the International Paralympic Committee he was ranked number three in the world in 2011 in the men’s 100m. His biggest competition will come from China’s Xinhan Fu and Russia’s Teboho Mokgalagadi, who are ranked number one and two in the world and were Beijing’s silver and bronze medalists.
Another medal hopeful is Sebastian Baldassarri. Baldassarri is the 2008 Beijing silver medalist in men’s discuss throw F11-12, which is the category for blind athletes. Baldassarri won gold in the discuss throw at the Para Pan-Am games in 2011, and also grabbed a silver in shot put. He is hoping for at least a repeat silver medal if not the gold itself.
Yanina Martínez and Naudia Schaus are hoping to step onto the podium together again, after a one, two finish in both the women’s 100 and 200m T36 in Mexico. T36 is also for athletes with cerebral palsy.
The women both qualified for the Paralympics and are hopeful to repeat the Argentine dominance of the podium. They are currently ranked number three and four in the world for the 100 and 200m.
Overall athletics is one of Argentina’s strongest events, boasting numerous medal contenders that are ready to bring home some hardware.
Argentina has golden dreams for a few swimmers as they dive into the pool at the Aquatics Centre in London, England.
One of its biggest up and coming swimmers is Daniela Giménez. Giménez won three medals at the 2011 Para Pan-American Games in Mexico, two gold in the women’s 50m freestyle and 100m backstroke, and a bronze in the 100m butterfly.
The young 19-year-old swimmer from Chaco is missing her left hand placing her in the S9 category for slightly handicapped swimmers.
Trained by Sergio Sainz, the Argentine swimmer timed 38s10 in the 50m breast in a tournament in April 2011 at the National Centre of High Performance Athletics (CeNARD). The time was a world record but was not approved because of the lack of anti-doping control tests.
On the men’s side team Argentina will be well represented by Ignacio González and Guillermo Marro, who are both coming from a very strong showing at the Para Pan-Am Games.
González picked up a silver in the 200m individual medley and won three bronze in the 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 100m breaststroke all in the S12 or visually impaired category.
Marro was the sole medalist at the Beijing Paralympics in swimming in 2008 when he won bronze in the 100m backstroke S7. S7 signifies the level of the physical handicap; Marro has very limited use of his legs and spends his time in a wheelchair right up until the moment he gets into the pool. In Guadalajara he proved he’s back to win by grabbing a gold in the 100m backstroke and a silver in the medley relay alongside Facundo Lazo, Marco Pulleiro, and Bruno Lemaire. This time he will try to win the gold in the 100m backstroke.
Marro is the flag bearer for team Argentina at the opening ceremonies in London.
The serves are just as hard, the shots are just as fast and the rules are the exact same, but as the ball whips around the court so too do the metal wheels of the athletes’ chairs as they race back and forth trying to hit the tennis ball.
At the London Games, Gustavo Fernández will don the blue and white as he represents Argentina in the men’s singles.
Fernandez is ranked sixth in the world according to International Tennis Federation rankings and qualified for London 2012 after winning the 2011 Para Pan-American Games.
These Paralympics also mark the first time that the competition will be held in a purpose built stadium created specifically for wheelchair tennis. Eton Manor will have a capacity for 10,500 spectators to view the very best that the sport has to offer with a total of 112 athletes across all divisions.
For a complete list of all the Paralympic athletes and when they compete please visit our events calendar online.