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TERESA PERALES

Interview with

06 Oct 2016

PARALYMPIC SWIMMER AND MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER

“SHARING MY LIFE EXPERIENCE AND KNOWING THAT IT CAN HELP OTHERS FULFILS ME”

Swimmer Teresa Perales is an example of achievement. Her paraplegia has not stopped her from developing a brilliant career. She is one of the athletes with most medals in Paralympic history. We chatted with her about her career, about her work as a writer, speaker and motivational coach and her future plans.

The ambition to improve is the maxim that has ruled your life. When at the age of 19 a neuropathy made you lose he motor function in your legs, you started to swim because of the freedom water offered. How did you get involved in the world of competition?

It was on a family holiday. I did swim when I was young, but not much. The first time I got into a pool after ending up in a wheelchair, I wore a life jacket. I was bored of sitting in the sun while my family was in the water. I liked the feeling, so back home I joined a club, and they tried me out and suggested I compete.

You have collected 22 medals, as many as American swimmer Michael Phelps, and with Rio 2016 on the horizon you face a new sporting and personal challenge. How do you train to compete in this kind of event?

Training many hours a day. Besides swimming, I train on a hand bike. I also work on the psychological aspect with visualisation exercises. These will be my fifth games.

You have combined your career with coaching and motivational speaking. What do you get out of coaching? What do you try to convey in your talks?

I like to get people who hear me to think things over; it makes me feel good. Sharing my life experience and knowing that it helps others fulfils me, but always basing it on a constant positive attitude.

After sharing your experience in your book “Mi vida sobre ruedas” (My Life on Wheels), in “La fuerza de un sueño” (The Strength of a Dream) you talk about positive attitudes and espiralismo (spiralism) What is this theory all about?

Try to see a spiral in your mind’s eye. It comes out from inside and grows around you, feeding on the things and the people that help to make you feel happy. Happiness is within you, and so it is you who is solely responsible for the decisions you take to feel happy. It is you who should be prepared to pursue that state of mind and tell the world. Because everything is in the eye of the beholder, and every human being can create their own spiral of optimism and happiness by surrounding themselves with what really matters.

One of your strongest beliefs is “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. Your career and experience have built up personal, professional and sporting achievements and successes. What do you want that you have not yet achieved?

Right now I am involved in preparation for the Paralympics. In terms of sports, I would like to conclude my fifth Paralympics with more victories. On a personal level, I already feel privileged, and professionally, I have several projects related to the personal development of people. But now, with Rio de Janeiro coming up, that is what is taking up all my attention.

You have received awards such as the Gran Cruz Real al Mérito Deportivo, and you have been a runner up for the Premio Príncipe de Asturias al Deporte. What do these awards mean to you?

Enormous satisfaction. Personally, I feel fortunate to receive so much love and recognition, not just institutionally but also socially. I also like being a spokesperson for the merits of people with disabilities as a whole.

You've become a role model for many who fight to improve themselves. Who has been your model and inspiration?

I have no real models, except my father. I think losing him when I was 15 forged my strength, and his legacy was inspirational.

Multiple scientific studies have proven the relationship between maintaining proper oral health and athletic performance. In your case, what routine do you follow to ensure proper oral health?

Maintaining good oral health is essential for good athletic performance. I have regular check-ups every year.

How do you think the oral health of an athlete affects their performance? Do you know of or have you personally experienced any oral condition that affected your performance?

In my case, I haven’t had any problems, because I am aware of the need, and it is part of my healthy lifestyle, but I do know of other athletes whose performance was not its peak for a long time because of an oral pathology. Infections and muscle cramps are the most common problems.

Are athletes as a whole aware of the importance of maintaining proper oral health? Is there a dentist on the medical team?

The truth is, not really. It is unusual to see a dentist on the medical team, but it is true that athletes are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of good oral health.

What role do pharmacists play in the health of an athlete?

Pharmacists are very important as they recommend permitted sports supplements, which are so needed for recovery after the usual burnout experienced by top athletes.

What are your future plans after the Rio 2016 Paralympics?

Immediately afterwards, resting and making up for lost time with my family. Then there are more challenges awaiting me, like those proposed by Fundación Telefónica, for whom I am an ambassador. This year they have got me to shoot a short, they have set me behind the stove to cook a sports dish, I've been the leading character in a comic book and, last but not least, we have created the “Teresa Perales Symphony. Anatomy of a Swimmer’s Stroke”. I just can’t stop. 


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