To mark 300 days until the Paralympic Games, Tokyo 2020 spoke to the Brazilian swimmer, who is preparing for his fourth Games
Daniel Dias is Brazil’s most decorated Paralympian ever.
Overall, the Para swimmer has 24 Paralympic medals from three Games, 33 ParaPan American titles and 40 World Championship medals. It’s a staggering number when it’s all laid out. But Dias is much more than an athlete. He’s also a husband, a father, and a role model to aspiring athletes.
Speaking to Tokyo 2020 ahead of marking 300 days until next year’s re-scheduled Paralympic Games, Dias spoke about the kind of legacy he hopes to leave.
“Something I experienced in Rio was that one kid without any impairment told me ‘Daniel you are huge role model for me’,” he said. “And that makes me feel something very special because a kid with no impairment saw me as a role model [and] an example and sport made that happen," he said.
“That kid didn’t see me for my impairment but for my spirit – and what I can do, and I think this is a legacy.”
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Keeping fit for a fourth Paralympics
Taking up swimming after being inspired by fellow Brazilian Clodoaldo Silva at Athens 2004, Dias made his Paralympic debut at Beijing 2008 when he was just 20-years-old.
From that moment, there was nothing stopping the Para swimmer, who went on to make an instant impact by winning his first Paralympic medal – a gold – in the men’s 100m freestyle S5. In the end, he would leave the People’s Republic of China as the most decorated athlete at the Games winning a total of nine medals including four golds.
His prowess only continued at London 2012 – winning six individual golds and breaking multiple World Records – and at his home Games, Rio 2016 he won nine medals with four being gold.
However, after almost 12 years of competing at the highest level, how does an athlete continue to strive to be their best? What is it that drives them? Well for Dias, the answer is simple:
“My motivation is to be able to able to better all the time and show that I’m able to reach further, have better records,” the 32-year-old said.
Last month, would’ve been the Closing Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and another four-year cycle until Paris 2024 would’ve begun. Instead, athletes across the world have had to re-focus with the postponement of the Games with another 12 months of training.
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Brazil – one of the hardest hit nations in the world – like most countries, training facilities across the country closed down in mid-March to halt the spread of the virus, including the Paralympic Training Centre in São Paulo.
For Dias, one of the most difficult parts was not being able to use the pool for training.
“I felt like a fish out of water,” he explained, “I’ve been doing other [types of] training, but it wasn’t the main thing I could do as a swimmer.”
But he’s now back in the pool and preparing for a tilt at his fourth Paralympic Games at Tokyo 2020.
“This is my fourth Paralympic Games, so it feels very special in any case,” said Dias, who competes in classes S5, SB4 and SM5, “However, the whole world is facing a difficult situation and the Games are expected to help show that we’ve overcome it.”
Excitement for Tokyo 2020
So as the countdown clock ticks down, Paralympians and Paralympic hopefuls are eagerly awaiting to step foot into the National Stadium for the Opening Ceremony on 24 August 2021.
In Tokyo, Dias, who holds six world records, is looking to pick up where he finished in Rio four years ago by showing his dedication and that he’s in peak fitness in the pool at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre.
“The Paralympic Games, for me, is something unique and incredible to participate in,” he said.
“As an athlete I shouldn’t be too excited, but I’m really excited for next year. And all the Paralympic Games I’ve participated in I feel the same so this time will not be different from the past.
“I look forward to having that moment again.”
And as the Games draw nearer, Dias shared a message to the Paralympic community.
“So I would like to say for everyone to focus, train a lot, the Games are just around the corner and try your best but always keep smiling.”
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will be held from 24 August 2021 to 5 September 2021.