7 Athletes From Latin America Who Dominated the Summer Paralympics This Year

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres. Photos by: Dean Mouhtaropoulos, Carmen Mandato, and Hugo Avila
Art by Stephany Torres. Photos by: Dean Mouhtaropoulos, Carmen Mandato, and Hugo Avila
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The Summer Paralympics Games are officially over and several athletes from across the globe went back home as champions. From swimmers to taekwondo martial artists, the Latine Paralympians who competed this year were part of an impressive list of athletes who performed on the world’s biggest stage and brought pride to their countries.

In all, the Latin American countries of Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Argentina, Peru, and El Salvador won a total of 144 medals. Brazil led the group with 72 victories and came in seventh in the overall medal count. Of the 144 medals won by Latin American countries, 44 of them were gold, 36 were silver and 64 were bronze. Here are seven of those gold medalists who came out on top.


Maria Carolina Gomes Santiago (Brazil)

Diagnosed with a congenital eye condition called morning glory syndrome, Santiago took the Paralympics by storm by winning three golds, one silver, and one bronze as a swimmer. Her gold medals came in the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle, and 100-meter breaststroke. It marked the first time any Brazilian female swimmer has won three gold medals during the competition.


Amalia Pérez (México)

At the age of 44, Pérez won the gold medal in women’s powerlifting (130lb bracket) this year. She was also the co-flag bearer at the opening ceremony. This was the sixth Paralympics Games of her career. Pérez, who was born with arthrogryposis and is confined to a wheelchair, started her Paralympics journey in 2000 in Sydney where she won silver followed by another silver medal in the 2004 games in Athens. Since then, all Pérez has seen is gold, winning the top prize in 2008, 2012, 2016, and this year. In 2016, she accepted the National Mexican Sports Award for the third time in her career.


Omara Durand Elías (Cuba)

The visually impaired sprinter won three gold medals at this years Games. They came in the events of the women’s 400, women’s 200 and women’s 100. Elías also competed in the last two Paralympics in 2016 and 2012 where she won five more gold medals and set a new world record in the 100-meter event in 2016. The following year, she was named the Best Female Athlete by the International Paralympic Committee.


Nelson Crispin Corzo (Colombia)

This was the first gold for Corzo who also took home two silver and one bronze in swimming events this year. The gold came in the 200-meter medley where Corzo also broke the world record. Corzo was born with achondroplasia, which causes abnormal growth in the spine and skull. In 2013, he was named Sportsperson of the Year by the Colombian Paralympic Committee.


Lisbeli Vera Andrade (Venezuela)

The sprinter won two golds for her home country in the women’s 100-meter and 200-meter races. She also won a silver in the 400-meter. During her 100-meter race, it came down to an exciting photo finish where she narrowly outran the reigning world champion. Andrade, who was born without the lower part of her left arm, told that she built her character at a young age when kids used to bully her about her disability.


Francisca Mardones Sepulveda (Chile)

The 43-year-old shot putter broke the world record when she won her gold medal in shot put this year. In 1999, her spine was injured during a landslide caused by a hurricane in Puerto Rico where she was working at the time. She started her athletic career as a wheelchair tennis player and was successful in the sport but turned to shot put when she suffered from nerve damage to her hand after accidentally cutting it with a kitchen knife.


Leonor Angelica Espinoza Carranza (Peru)

The Taekwondo martial artist won Peru’s only medal of the Games with gold in her women’s group (49 kg). It was Peru’s first Paralympic title in 21 years and first medal in 17 years. Carranza, who only took up the sport in 2017, was born missing part of her left arm.