“How often have you heard that something wasn’t possible…?” Teresa Perales, Paralympic swimmer
On March 12, the Gasol Foundation invited Teresa Perales, an acclaimed Spanish Paralympic swimmer and sport advocate, to visit and talk with the children of our L’ESPORT SUMA program conducted in Badalona, Spain in partnership with the Casal dels Infants organization.
Despite a physical limitation set at age 19 when Teresa lost the use of her legs, she has gone on to compete in four Paralympic Games: Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London and will be competing next year in Rio. Receiving a total of 22 medals thus far – Teresa continues to dream bigger and achieve more than many people ever imagined she could.
More than 60 children and young people from Badalona listened attentively to Teresa’s story. Some even interrupted her with eager questioning related to her past achievements, struggles, future goals and opportunities. We heard questions like, “What inspires you, Teresa?” and “When do you think you will retire?” As well as statements like, “My dream is to go to Rio de Janeiro with my son to live the experience of the Games.”
Teresa Perales has always combated labels and stereotypes – even at the tender age of 5 years old, when her parents enrolled her into her first swimming class. They were told, “it is better that your child be engaged in something else because swimming is not her thing”. 20 years later, Teresa is still swimming, and swims very well! She was told she could not win and just did not believe them. It took a commitment to many hours of training over the course of many early mornings, but Teresa eventually won! She acknowledges that hard work does not guarantee a win, but it does guarantee a successful and invaluable learning process.
The day’s visit ended with Teresa’s goodbyes, a big smile and the following message to the children and young people in attendance: “Ignore the labels and stereotypes… [instead] dream and work towards your dream”.
Gasol Foundation strives to promote healthy habits and we believe that sport programming positively impacts the physical, mental, psychological and social development of young people.
Also, the confidence, consistency, discipline and camaraderie that a child experiences during sport activity can serve as a buffer to life’s many adversities.
We believe in sport for everyone, inclusive regardless of the physical or psychological conditions of those who participate. And testimonies like Teresa’s bring us closer to a reality that often seems too distant, but remains possible all around us in everyday life.