The winner of the gold medal in the Men’s 5,000 meter race at the 2012 Paralympics shared with attendees how he has persevered after going completely blind at the age of 12 due to congenital glaucoma. While he did not understand what was happening to him at the time, with time and support from his mother he realized it was still possible for him to fulfill his dreams. "I began to know the world through sport and there found my relief."
"When my body hurts and I don’t think I can keep moving forward, I look towards the sky and ask God for help and I hope that will give me what I deserve, no more and no less." With these words the Chilean athlete began an emotional speech to students in the physical education program, which organizes the visit of the high performance athletes.
The first time he traveled to represent Chile was to Beijing in 2008. "At that moment I realized that disabled people have a great responsibility, as all the contenders were elite athletes." He knew he was facing the best in the world. He began training full-time, with a demanding training program and coaches who see him as an athlete. Christián adds, "the only limitations are mental."
Cristián's mom's birthday was August 21, which he missed due to pre-season training. Before leaving he asked his mother what he could bring her as a gift. She responded, without hesitation, "a gold medal." And he brought it home. During the competition, Cristián works with a guide at his side who guides him so social integration is fundamental to the success of his career. When you work as a team, every individual works together to achieve the common goal, which in this case was to win the gold medal, he added.
The primary audience for this visit were the students in the Physical Education program, who can develop and launch new policies that regard the athletic, educational, and rehabilitation facets of sport. Cristián Valenzuela added that the assembled students "have in their hands a great opportunity to help and change reality and society."
This article was originally written in Spanish and has been translated into English to be shared on the Laureate International Universities website.