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Sep 12, 2016 05:59 PM


Investments in parasport will continue after Rio 2016, says Secretary for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Judoka Wilians Araujo, a silver medallist in Rio, celebrates plan by the Federal Government to maintain support for athletes with disabilities after the Paralympics

Brazil's Paralympians will not be forgotten after the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. The guarantee was given by the Special Secretary for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the Ministry of Justice, Roseane Cavalcante de Freitas Estrela (affectionately known as Rosinha do Adefal), during a news conference on Monday (12 September) at the Rio Media Center. Estrela was joined at the press conference by Brazilian judoka Wilians Araújo. Araújo, who is visually impaired, won the silver medal at the Men's Over 100 category this Saturday (10 September). "We now have more resources to continue investing in parasport, and will pursue an even more ambitious goal than being among the top five in the medals table in Tokyo 2020," said the secretary.

According to Estrela, the federal government has invested R$ 67.3 million directly in Paralympic sport promotion activities since 2010. In addition, 17 agreements have been signed with sports federations to train Paralympic teams across the country. "We believe that sport is the best vehicle for social inclusion. In addition to the physical and image legacy it will leave, we want the Paralympics to have as its biggest legacy a change in attitude towards persons with disabilities," she added.

Maintaining the investments in parasport will be made possible through an increase in the allocation of resources to the sector from the proceeds of Brazil's official sports lottery, the Loteria Esportiva. After the sanction of the Brazilian Inclusion Law in August 2015, the percentage of the proceeds from sports lotteries allocated to parasport rose from 0.3% to 1.0%. "Therefore, investments will not stop," Roseane said.

Wilians welcomed the news, and said that it goes a long way to reassure many athletes with disabilities. "The federal government has invested a lot, and that investment allowed us to train abroad and travel to compete," said the judoka, who lost his sight at age 10 in a shotgun accident. Without any private sponsorship, Wilians stressed that the Bolsa Pódio ("Podium Grant") he receives from the Ministry of Sport allowed him to train without worries. "It was thanks to this support that I could win this medal and give this joy to my family and the Brazilian people. I am very happy to know that the plan is to continue investing in parasport after the Paralympic Games."

Lack of investment, according to the judoka, was the biggest difficulty he faced early in his sporting career. "In the beginning, I almost gave up judo. I had to study and finish secondary school. Today things have improved a lot, but at that time there were no accessible school materials adapted for the visually impaired. I had to stay all day at school so that colleagues could read to me. There was no time left to train, but my coaches called me and urged me to return to training," said Wilians.

With the silver medal on his chest, he says his next dream is to be a judo champion and bring the gold back from Tokyo 2020. To Wilians, sport can show the potential of persons with disabilities, who often need nothing but an opportunity. "I hope that the great legacy the Games will leave is to change the perspective of Brazilians and show how much we can do, and how equal we are," said the judoka.