Cristián Valenzuela placed fourth in the 1,500-meter T11 category race at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London on Monday, smashing his personal best with a time of 04:07:79.
Valenzuela, who is blind due to congenital glaucoma, entered third place on the race’s second lap, but came up short at the finish line by .23 seconds to Canadian Jason Dunkerley, according to La Tercera. The gold medal went to Kenyan Kimani Samwell, who broke the world record in the event with a time of 3:58.37.
Valenzuela and his guide Christopher Guajardo will also participate in the 5,000-meter race on September 7 and the marathon on September 9. Valenzuela won gold in the T11 marathon last year at the IPC World Athletics Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, and is a top contender to medal in his next two events.
To ensure competition fairness in the Paralympics, athletes are grouped into classes according to the level that their impairment impacts their event performance. Classes 11–13 are for athletes with a visual impairment.
Valenzuela, now 29, lost his sight as a young adult. After his diagnosis, he searched for a new purpose in life and struggled with depression.
“It all started when I lost my sight. When it happened, it seemed like it was the end of my world. I didn’t have anything to do, no day-to-day routine. That was my lowest point, when I even thought about death,” he told La Tercera.
But he found his calling in athletics. Valenzuela answered a posting looking for blind people to run, and he’s been on track ever since.
“Thanks to sports I have been able to achieve my dreams,” he said.
Valenzuela joins six other Chilean athletes at the London Paralympic Games: four competing in wheelchair tennis, one competing in table tennis, and one swimmer. The games conclude on September 9.