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Teresa Perales, Paralympic champion: “My disability has never determined who I am”


If you have been following the Paralympic Games in recent years, you have certainly heard of Teresa Perales, Spain”s most successful paralympic athlete with 27 medals won since the beginning of her career. From losing the use of her legs at the age of 19 to becoming a swimming legend, she has been an inspiration to many. Teresa Perales has been awarded the Princess of Asturias Award 2021 for sport. We met her in Oviedo on the occasion of the official presentation of this most prestigious award in Spain in this field.

Andy Robini, euronews :

“Where does this resilience that you have come from? This inner strength?”

Teresa Perales, Paralympic champion :

“This inner strength is based first on being motivated. It’s very good that others motivate you and say: “Come on, Teresa, you can do it!”But when you train alone and you have no one to encourage you, it’s important to find your inner strength and understand why you’re doing it. I do it because I love it, it excites me, I love competition, I love winning and I always dream of the possibility of getting on the podium.”

“You have to learn to manage your emotions day after day”

Andy Robini :

“A few years ago you wrote a book called “La fuerza de un sueƱo” (The strength of a dream) in which you talk about physical training, but also emotional. So we can train our emotions?”

Teresa Perales :

“Of course and this is essential, even more so for athletes. You have to realize that you work for four years of your life to give the best for maybe 30 seconds: that’s barely the time that some competitions last. Being able to manage your emotions, especially fear, stress and panic, it’s very difficult and it’s what you have to learn day after day for many years. Many tools and methods exist. Everyone uses what suits him best. Personally, I have been working on this since Athens and in truth, it has worked pretty well for me so far, given my results!”

“Nothing is impossible in life!”

Andy Robini :

“At the age of 19, your life has turned upside down. But you bounced back. What would you say to a young person facing the same obstacle?”

Teresa Perales :

“I would tell him that he has life ahead of him, fortunately. I would tell him he needs to learn to do things differently. Sometimes it’s very complicated and you think it’s the end of the world and it’s impossible, but I would add that from my experience, nothing is impossible in life, is it? It is a matter of will. I used to say that determination can lift mountains and it’s true! Life has led me to do things that anyone I met on the street could not imagine doing themselves. I forced myself to do it because I wanted to and the wheelchair accompanied me. But neither the armchair nor my disability has ever determined who I am as a person: it is simply a companion that I carry on the path of life and it is with me all the time.”

“My times were constantly better, so I started the competition”

Andy Robini :

“Why did you choose swimming?”

Teresa Perales :

“Because it was cheaper than athletics! [rires] I really like athletics, speed and seeing athletes move around with their specially designed speed chair. But it was much more expensive! And then, one summer, I swam in a life jacket and did my first breaststroke and I realized at that moment that I loved the feeling of floating. I loved the freedom I felt in the water while moving. And later, at the pool, I thought, “This is what I want to do, I want to learn to swim.”All I wanted was to swim well, I didn’t intend to compete, but one thing by training another, I realized over time that my times were constantly better and I liked that. That’s what made me start the competition.”

“Sometimes, professional life takes us too much”

Andy Robini :

“Have you ever thought about stopping swimming?”

Teresa Perales :

“Yes, many times! I’ve been swimming for so long. I’ve been competing for 24 years. So it’s normal that during such a long career, we sometimes say that we want to stop because we say to ourselves: “I can’t, I’m not able to, it’s too much for me, it costs me too much!”Even more so when you are a mother and train in parallel with your family life. Sometimes professional life takes us too long and there were times when I was tempted to give up, but all I had to do then was look back and think about the wonderful moments I had in my competitions. These memories helped me to say, “No, I don’t give up, I keep going.”

Andy Robini :

“How do you reconcile your family life and sports?”

Teresa Perales :

“With a digital agenda! [rires] I must always take into account the family agenda, the school calendar and extracurricular activities, the work schedule of my husband, the schedule of my competitions, my workouts and the schedule of my work. Admittedly, it’s a bit complicated, it’s almost like playing Tetris, but it’s doable. When we are well organized, in the end, we have time for everything.”

Princess of Asturias Award for sport : “A dream come true!”

Andy Robini :

“This year you received the Princess of Asturias Award for sport. Is it a dream come true?”

Teresa Perales :

“Yes, it’s a dream come true! Apparently, I was the eternal candidate! For many years my application was on the table and I had never won and this year they finally awarded me the Prize. In truth, I was very surprised because I did not know that this would happen and when I received the call, I saw an unknown number displayed on my mobile – I knew that the jury had met and that it was the day the decision was made -. So, at that time, I said to myself, “At this time of day, they have to call the winners”. I picked up and someone said to me: “Teresa, I call you from the Foundation Princess of Asturias.”And there, my heart packed!”

“Smiling is like giving a gift”

Andy Robini :

“Teresa Perales never loses her smile?”

Teresa Perales :

“Yes, sometimes, but almost never. Only when I sleep in reality! [rires] No, seriously, it’s not worth losing your smile, it’s nice to smile and it’s contagious. When we smile, the person in front of us smiles back. Smiling is like giving a gift.”

Andy Robini :

“Are we going to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games?”

Teresa Perales :

“As was said in the cinema [ndlr : dans le film “Casablanca”], “We will always have Paris.”


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