manuel mendes.jpg

Portugal wins four bronze medals at Rio Paralympics

In what has been described as a “historic” performance, Portugal has brought home four bronze medals and 25 diplomas – awarded to top-eight finishers – from the 2016 Rio Paralympics which closed on Sunday (September 18).

“Since Sydney 2000, the number of medals we had been winning had been dropping. This time we were able to invert the tendency,” said the head of Portugal’s Paralympic Committee, Humberto Santos.

Indeed, one more medal was won compared to the 2012 Paralympics in London.

“We also have to associate these four medals to a group of excellent results and the emergence of great new athletes,” Santos added.

The medals were won by Luís Gonçalves (400m T12 sprint running), Manuel Mendes (T46 marathon), José Macedo (individual boccia BC3) and Portugal’s BC1/BC2 boccia team which included António Marques, Abílio Valente, Fernando Ferreira and Cristina Gonçalves.

Despite Portugal’s successful performance, Santos says there’s still a big difference in the way the country treats its Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

“We are talking about (Paralympic) athletes of excellence who are treated differently by the country, and considering the high level of the Paralympics these days, there’s no reason for there to be such a difference in treatment,” he said.

Though there was a €1.5 million increase in the money provided to Portugal’s Paralympics Committee compared to 2012, Santos says money is not all that matters.

“We cannot just double the financial support; we have to create conditions for athletes to be treated equally.”

Though he did not specify exactly what he referred to, he said the committee has “proposals” and will be presenting them soon.

“The Paralympics are no longer a place where people simply fraternise. It is now a competition of the highest level, which is why we have to give athletes the best conditions the country has to offer,” he added.

Meantime, the Paralympics event has “defied expectations” after suffering “swingeing” cuts to its budget.

According to UK’s Mirror, International Paralympic Committee president Sir Philip Craven dubbed these the “People’s Games” when they opened at the Maracanã Stadium. “And the people responded,” the paper says.

More than 2.1 million tickets were sold, second only to London 2012.

The first Saturday on the Paralympic Park saw 167,000 spectators attend – more than at any point during the Olympics, the paper adds.

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Photo: Portugal’s Manuel Mendes after finishing the men’s marathon (T46)