[UPDATED] Venezuela Shines in Tokyo Paralympics with Three Gold Medals, Seven in Total

Venezuelan athletes Linda Pérez and Lisbeli Vera won gold medals within 15 minutes, breaking the country's 13-year drought.

Guayaquil, Ecuador, September 2, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan delegation at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games has become the country’s pride and joy after winning seven medals, three of them gold, and 13 diplomas so far.

In a historical performance, the Caribbean nation collected four medals on August 31’s athletic races, adding to the previous week’s victories. The feat yielded two gold medals, two silvers and two bronzes. 

The honor of bringing home the first gold medal fell upon Linda Pérez in the 100-meters race registering a time of 12.05 seconds. The 23-year-old athlete, with T-11 visual impairment, ran alongside her guide Álvaro Herrera.

“Now I am the world’s best in the 100-meters flat, something that I cannot believe at this moment,” Linda told the press. The runner revealed she never expected to win gold and that her efforts were focused on earning a spot on the podium in the 400-meters race, where she finished fourth.

“I want to thank everyone in Venezuela for their support and also to my guide Álvaro for his dedication. Right now, I believe more than ever that no matter what size or age you are, you can always fulfill your dreams,” expressed the Zulia-born athlete.

Earlier that day, Pérez’s twin sister Alejandra Paola was also collecting her own medal, after coming third in women’s 400-meters. The athlete, born with a visual impairment like her sibling, became the second Venezuelan bronze medallist in Tokyo.

Venezuela’s second gold came only 15 minutes after the first, with Lisbeli Vera achieving a remarkable 11.97 seconds in the 100-meter dash. On August 28, Vera had won silver in the 400-meters competition, making her the best athlete from the delegation.

“When I crossed the finish line, I didn’t realize I’d won because Brittni Mason was a solid competitor. I didn’t know how to express my feelings at the moment. I trusted myself to win the race,” said Vera following her winning display. 

Pérez’ and Vera’s victories ended a 13-year wait since Venezuela’s last Paralympic gold medal. The honor belonged to Naomi Soazo, who took first place in women’s -63 kg judo in Beijing 2008.

Closing Tuesday’s historical performance, sprinter Luis Rodríguez set a new personal record of 47.71 seconds in the 400-meters race. The 28-year-old, who competed in the T20 category (intellectual impairment), grabbed the country’s second silver medal in Tokyo.

The South American nation’s first podium at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics was on August 26, when Clara Fuentes grabbed bronze in women’s 41 kg powerlifting with a 97 kg mark. The 24-year old win is likewise Venezuela’s first-ever medal in powerlifting, with all the previous and current ones in athletics and judo.

The paralympic athletes’ efforts drew widespread praise in the country, with President Maduro calling the medallists to congratulate them. For her part, Olympic triple jump gold medallist and record holder Yulimar Rojas called the displays “powerful” and “inspirational” on Twitter.

One of the keys behind this year’s Venezuelan Paralympic success was Cuban-Venezuelan trainer Isidoro Barthelemy. “Mission accomplished, Chávez. Mission accomplished, Fidel. This was my dream,” he expressed after Tuesday’s performance.

Barthelemy arrived in Venezuela as part of the Barrio Adentro Sports program. The trainer has been accumulating victories since Beijing 2008 and Río 2016, helping the country to two silvers and five diplomas combined.

The Tokyo 2020 edition began on August 24 with the traditional inauguration ceremony and will see its closing act on September 5.

UPDATE: On September 4, Lisbeli Vera won her second gold medal in the T-47 200-meters contest with a 24.52 mark. Born without the lower part of her left arm, the 19-year-old earned three medals in Tokyo: two golds (100 and 200-meters) and one silver (400-meters). Venezuela closed its participation in the Paralympics with 17 diplomas in total.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.