It’s only fitting that Terezinha Guilhermina served as the poster child for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. After all, the Brazilian track athlete encompasses everything the competition stands for. Besides representing her native Brazil as an exceedingly decorated Paralympian, her poignant journey to get to this point has resonated with so many others. And all along the way, through true Paralympic spirit, Guilhermina has shown why she is undoubtedly CRUSH worthy.
Born into abject poverty, Guilhermina struggled to find sufficient food, shelter, and opportunity as one of 12 children. When she was just nine years old, her mother passed away, leaving the family to fend for itself. To make conditions even more trying, Guilhermina was born with retinitis pigmentosa – visual impairment, from which four of her siblings also suffer – that renders her almost completely blind.
Everyday life was a challenge for Guilhermina, but so was school, where she used to get picked on. Prior to bullying at school, she was unaware of her outstanding quickness. But after one particular instance where she escaped from a bully, she discovered that she had a real talent for running. From that point on, she found her true freedom and passion.
Determined to begin a career in sport, Guilhermina pursued an opportunity at a local organization that supported athletes with disabilities. There, she took up swimming, simply because she couldn’t afford running shoes. However, in stepped her sister with a pair of shoes and Guilhermina was right back on track. The next hurdle was learning how to improve without a running guide, all while training during the hottest part of the day and functioning on an unhealthy diet. But Guilhermina was up to the task. Despite the barriers in her way, Guilhermina began excelling and soon attracted the attention of the Brazilian Paralympic officials.
Her first Paralympic Games took place in 2004 in Athens, where she won bronze in the 400m. Four years later in Beijing, Guilhermina would bring home a gold (200m), silver (100m), and bronze (400m), and solidify herself as one of the top track Paralympians in the world. She then followed that up by claiming two golds in the 100m and 200m at London 2012. Even now, at almost 38 years of age, Guilhermina still shows her impressive Skill – all of which she’s rightfully earned.
At Rio 2016, the stage was set for a triumphant homecoming for one of the great contemporary Paralympians. Unfortunately, disqualifications kept Guilhermina from claiming any gold medals, however, she still walked away with silver in the 4x100m and bronze in the 400m. But more importantly, Guilhermina sent her message loud and clear on her home soil – that you can control your destiny and defeat adverse conditions if you work hard and persevere. She told CNN, “I feel honored to be an example for others. It makes it feel worthwhile to have overcome all the challenges I have encountered so I can help others to dream and also fulfill their dreams.”
Not only has she been a Role Model through what she’s accomplished, but also in how she conducts herself and appreciates others. Even after the disappointing disqualifications, she maintained her composure and acknowledged the fans in a classy and graceful manner. She also frequently gives credit to her racing guides, who help to steer and assist as conjoined runners during competition. As she states, “We are a team. If we lose we do it together, and if we win…we win together.”
Embracing the team concept has been a key factor in Guilhermina’s success and desire to give back. From bullying, to poverty, to physical impairment, her resilience to overcome has largely been self-made, yet she understands that we’re all in this together – that one change, one person can make a difference. So as the crowd favorite and face of the Rio Paralympic Games, Guilhermina has used her celebrity to lead the next generation. To guide them, step by step, as they take off on their own journey.
Follow Terezinha Guilhermina on Instagram @terezinhaguilhermina
Written by Athlete CRUSH Staff
Posted 30 September 2016