Para South American Games a great success for Chile

Chile were the first ever country to host a Paralympic version of the South American Games and the big names did not disappoint.

One week after the close of the tenth South American Games, Chile played host to the first ever Para-Suramericanos, a Latin American event for athletes with a disabilities.

Chile finished fifth on the medal table with a total of ten golds. The first was awarded to Team Chile captain Juan Carlos Garrido for his impressive performance in the powerlifting event. Having set the world record in Brazil in 2013, Garrido now has his eyes on the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

The Team Chile captain had no problems pushing himself into medal contention on his first attempt. Just to confirm his golden status, the Chilean lifted 177 kg, a record for Para-Pan American tournaments.

Still hungry for more, Garrido set up 182 kilograms, looking to break his own record. While he couldn’t beat his own mark in three attempts, Garrido was the clear champion and earned Chile’s first gold of the Games.

In addition for preparing physically for the competition, Garrido has been campaigning hard for recognition for Chile’s athletes with disabilities.

“We are not doing these sports just for recreation or rehabilitation, as many think. We are just the same as any athlete, we train every day,” the powerlifter told Sport/Life ahead of the Games.

As flagbearer and Chile’s highest profile Paralympic athlete, vision-impaired runner Cristián Valenzuela was under pressure to perform, but didn’t disappoint. The London 2012 Olympics gold medalist sprinted to success in both the 1,500 and 5,000 meter races.

Runner Margarita Faúndez won Chile’s final gold in the 800m, while swimming, tennis, weightlifting and table tennis all provided top of the podium finishes for Chile.

Argentina topped the medal table in the first version of the Games with 49 gold medals, two ahead of Brazil’s tally. Chile’s athletes will now look towards Toronto in 2015 and Rio in 2016 for their next chances to take the podium.