CARACAS (Reuters) – Jose Gregorio Montilla began swimming when he was seven years old to help him recover from operations to treat a joint condition called arthrogryposis.
Now, the 20-year-old Venezuelan journalism student hopes to bring home a medal in the 50-meter breaststroke at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, which begin on Aug. 24.
“We can achieve everything we set out to do,” Montilla said after a recent training session in Caracas.
“It takes time, it takes patience, dedication, effort to get to the Games,” he added with a smile.
Montilla qualified to compete in Tokyo after swimming the 50-meter breaststroke with a time of 1:41 at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru.
The youngest of three brothers, Montilla usually trains for an hour and a half each day from Tuesday to Saturday. But since qualifying for the Paralympics in Tokyo, he has doubled his daily training.
He will face still competition from Mexican swimmers Diego Lopez Diaz and Marcos Zarate, winners of the gold and silver medals at the Parapan American Games in Lima, as well as competitors from Thailand, Brazil, Israel and Canada.
A total of 25 Venezuelans will participate in the Tokyo Paralympics, including in weightlifting, judo and cycling.
Oriana Teran, 21, says she is still trying to control her excitement about going to the Paralympics.
She will compete in an adapted form of powerlifting for athletes with disabilities, in the 45-kilogram (99-pound) bodyweight category.
Sports activities not only benefit parathletes’ bodies, said Teran, they also “feed our souls.”
(Reporting by Efrain Otero y Vivian Sequera; Editing by Paul Simao)