Brazil’s Paralympic gold rush

On Tuesday morning at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, 29-year-old Yeltsin Jacques smashed the world record in the 1,500m T11 Paralympic event and grabbed his second gold medal in this year’s Games. Besides the personal achievement, the visually impaired runner’s victory secured Brazil’s 100th Paralympic gold, as the country closes in on an all-time best performance in Summer Games.

At the time of writing, with swimming wins for Talisson Glock and Gabriel Araújo, a discus triumph for Alessandro da Silva, and Nathan Torquato’s gold in debut sport taekwondo, Brazil has amassed 19 gold medals so far in the Tokyo Paralympics. With a few days of competition remaining, the country is near to the mark of 21 golds won in the London Games, and is eyeing finals of men’s 5-a-side football and goalball to pick up at least two more titles. 

Indeed, the Tokyo Paralympics has been one of celebration for Brazil. Besides the success on the track, in the pool, and in a wide array of other events, the Games also marked the swansong of Paralympic swimmer Daniel Dias, who bowed out of the sport after winning 27 Paralympic medals (14 of them gold) and a stunning 31 world championship titles across various events.

And Dias’s career spans the rise of Brazilian Paralympic sport. Born with malformed limbs, he took up swimming as a teenager, inspired by the feats of gold medalist Clodoaldo Silva in the 2004 Paralympics. When Dias debuted on the biggest stage in the Beijing Paralympics in 2008, the country almost doubled its delegation of Paralympic athletes, breaking into the top 10 of the overall medals table for the first time.

Four years later, in London, Brazil finished seventh overall with 21 gold medals — the milestone the team is looking to surpass before Sunday’s closing ceremony. In 2012, Dias was unstoppable, winning gold in all six of his events.

Brazilian Paralympics reached its highest point in 2016, when it proudly hosted the Games in Rio de Janeiro. The investment in infrastructure and training that accompanied the event has set up a golden future for the country’s Paralympic athletes, which it hopes to cement with an all-time greatest medal haul in Tokyo. 

Read more