For Jessica Aviles, a fifth semester high school student at Universidad del Valle de Mexico (UVM) Campus Tlalpan, the challenges are mental, but she is convinced that, with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.
And she has proved this by fulfilling one of her dreams, representing her country at the Paralympic Games, which begin on August 29 in London.
"I was born with a disability called myelomeningocele, it’s a hip problem, which prevents me from kicking in the water so I can only move my arms," she said.
"I believe there is nothing you cannot achieve, other may say 'it’s difficult', but the more difficult the challenge, the more interesting it is for me to see how I will solve it," said the 17-years.
"The challenges can only be met if you try, I never imagined reaching the Olympics, I saw them on TV and it looked amazing, now I realize that through hard work, discipline and commitment it can be done," she added.
She has competed in this form of adapted swimming event since she was six years. "I started at age six as a form of therapy to encourage physical activity, six years later I started to compete in the sport and started going to Olympic trials, at age 13 I was called to the Junior National Team."
Jessica has participated in several international competitions in Canada, the United States, and Mexico, most recently she competed at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, where she reached her greatest personal achievement and broke the record in the 100m backstroke with a time of 1 minute 35 seconds.
Currently, with the help of José Peláez, her coach in the National Team and at UVM, where he is coordinator of the swim team, this student is getting ready to compete in London 2012, in the individual category.
"I know little of Europe, so I'm nervous but also motivated, with lots of encouragement to achieve good results," he says.
"The dream of every swimmer is to attain a medal, regardless of the color, to stand on the podium and see your flag. I am going to try to prepare as usual, keep pushing and get to where I can, always having a positive attitude allows you to achieve many things."
The student will compete in five events, the 440 meter freestyle, 100 meter freestyle, the 50 meter freestyle, the 100 meter backstroke and the 200 meter combined.
To qualify, Jessica participated in the Paralympics selection competition, held in Boca del Rio, Veracruz, where the efforts of her discipline and commitment were on full display. She currently trains at the Mexican Paralympic Centre.
"I train Monday through Saturday. I swim about 5 miles a day. I train three to four hours, which is divided into physical workouts with weights, crunches, stretching rubber bands, etc., and water."
School and swimming are the most important activities in her life and she has managed to combine them to get a more comprehensive training in both areas.
"Sport provides discipline to lot to people, it gives them dedication, and helps make them more fulfilled, and it also helps to create a lot of responsibility and discipline in the school, which is important," said the student-athlete, who has an athletic scholarship at UVM.
After London, Jessica plans to continue training for future tournaments and begin higher education with a focus on studying Nutrition.
"My first international competition was very motivating, I was 13 or 14 years, and it was very satisfying because I realized that everything I sacrificed and the time I had trained was reflected, it’s a boost that helps you go ahead and push forward."
This article was originally written in Spanish and has been translated into English to be shared on the Laureate International Universities website.