SwimmingDaniel Dias and Jessica Long Looking to Add to Paralympics Medal Hauls

Daniel Dias and Jessica Long Looking to Add to Paralympics Medal Hauls

Daniel Dias and Jessica Long Looking to Add to Paralympics Medal Hauls

Paralympic swimming begins August 25 in Tokyo, and there’s a lot to unpack. Swimming at the Paralympics has many categories to keep the competitions balanced. There are 14 different classes across three impairment groups. The Paralympics website explains these classifications in further detail.

Here is a look at a few athletes looking to make their mark in Tokyo.

Daniel Dias of Brazil is the most decorated male Paralympic swimmer of all time with 24 medals to his name. After watching the 2004 Paralympics, Dias, who has deformities in his upper and lower limbs, was inspired to take up swimming. And he progressed quickly. Dias made his World Championships debut in 2006, taking home three gold medals. His medal return at the Paralympics is extraordinary, however, with the Brazilian claiming six, nine and six medals respectively at the last three Games.

This Paralympics will mark the end of Dias’ career. Earlier this year, he announced his intentions to retire after the Games.

“I never thought I would have gone as far as I did,” he said. “If I had written a letter when I began my career 16 years ago with all I wanted to achieve, it wouldn’t be as perfect as it has been. I have no doubt Tokyo 2020 will be an unforgettable moment, as the Paralympic Games are always special.

Dias has a chance to win five more medals this summer. With Dias currently holding world records in all the events he is competing in, expect the veteran to vie for gold each time he gets in the pool. His first chance at a medal, provided he qualifies for the final, is the S5 200-meter freestyle on August 25.

Husnah Kukundakwe Eager to Debut

Husnah Kukundakwe of Uganda is the only Paralympic swimmer from her country. What’s more remarkable is her age, just 14, making her the youngest of all athletes competing this year. While she initially tried to hide her disability, a limb impairment, the discovery of Paralympic swimming gave her an opportunity. Through swimming, Kukundakwe gained the confidence to stop hiding her disability, and to not care what others thought.

She’s already had a positive experience in the Paralympic village as well.

“Since it’s the Paralympics and everybody else has a disability, I felt really comfortable with myself,” she explained in a press conference. “In Uganda, there are very few people who have disabilities who want to come out and be themselves, so (being) around the athletes here, I’ve felt very comfortable. I haven’t started to make friends yet, but when I’m around the cafeteria I say ‘hi’ to people and hang around and have fun.”

Since debuting in 2019 in Singapore, she has grown stronger and faster. She’s also begun to use her voice to help disability awareness, with the hope that disabled people get fair representation. Kukundakwe is set to compete in her first event at Tokyo on August 26, in the women’s 100 backstroke SB8 heats. Expect Kukundakwe to be a mainstay on the Paralympic scene for many years going forward.

Jessica Long Chasing More Medals

Another incredible story is that of Jessica Long, whose story has been shared in a Toyota commercial. Born in Siberia, Long was adopted by an American family. She grew up in Baltimore and quickly fell in love with the sport of swimming. Being a double amputee, Long struggled to walk with prosthetics. Having the feeling of weightlessness in a pool was a sort of safety net for her.

She first joined a local team at 10 and by age 12 she was making her U.S. debut at Athens 2004, taking home three gold medals from those Paralympics. Her continued consistency has allowed Long to accumulate 23 Paralympic medals, 13 of them being gold. And she’s thrilled to be getting another chance to compete.

“There’s nothing like competing at the Paralympic Games,” Long told Tokyo 2020. “It’s the most special and out of this world experience. That’s why I train every single day is to get there and to represent my country.”

Paralympics swimming kicks off August 25 and runs through September 3.

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