Do not let anyone around you feel inferior and empower those who need it most so that they can fulfill all their dreams. For this reason ‘ VIDAS ‘ was born , a series of Cofidis that makes visible and honors people who have had to overcome all kinds of obstacles to fulfill their vital objectives. Values such as sacrifice, companionship or the spirit of improvement are present in these real stories that advocate for the integration of disabled people through sports.
The fifth chapter of this series tells the story of Carlos , a young 17-year-old athlete whose professional career was cut short by a fatal road accident . Before the incident, he spent every afternoon at the sports hall nurturing his dream of competing in the Spanish championship when, suddenly, he went completely to nothing in a second.
After a few very hard and intense months of rehabilitation for both his physical and emotional health, Carlos’s competitive spirit blossomed again and he began to get excited again. With sport he found a way to run again and relive life as it was before he was bedridden in a wheelchair, without mobility in both legs. His spirit of improvement and competitive mentality was stronger than the severe setback he suffered and he is currently preparing to compete in adapted athletics at the national level.
“There are still mental barriers, very close to people’s hearts”
Not all people are prepared to withstand all the unexpected changes that a serious injury can bring, such as the immediate interruption of their sporting life or the permanent reduction of mobility. In the toughest moments, when neither one’s own will nor discipline can help to adapt to this new reality, the values of sport and companionship can save lives . And if anyone knows about these values, it is disabled people – they represent 10% of the population – four million people accustomed to overcoming barriers in their daily lives, since reality is not yet ready, in many cases, for them.
The opportunity they deserve
In the chapter’s podcast , the president of the ONCE and the Spanish Paralympic Committee, Miguel Carballeda, maintains that the integration of disabled people has improved ostensibly over the years in Spain, but “there are still mental barriers, very close to the people’s hearts ”. Likewise, the president explains that they not only work for people with disabilities today, “but for those who are to come, so that they have a better world and equal opportunities .”
Constancy, dedication and teamwork are intrinsic values in sport that help to heal people and make them feel like one more within society, whether they have a disability or not. In addition, the mixed coexistence between Olympic and Paralympic athletes “has helped them to learn about other realities . ” Integrating professionals from both modalities is the starting point to “change the lives of individuals and families” and, from that moment on, athletes “begin to have an opportunity that should not be denied to anyone”, points out.
Carlos, in full rehabilitation after suffering the accident.Sport is an impulse to overcome barriers.COFIDIS
Similarly, support for the ‘Paralympics’ brand is fundamental and “Spanish citizens have shown that they follow these sports” after having reaped “very high audience levels,” says Carballeda. For this reason, Spain ranks as the second country that most recognizes this reality, after Japan. This support and visibility encourages families to “lose their fear” of issues related to the world of disability.
The advances made in the area of integration through sport have helped raise awareness among citizens and have made society more inclined to favor accessibility. For this reason, Carballeda believes, it is essential that these athletes become benchmarks , to nurture the dreams of young athletes and promote the integration of these athletes.
Sport as an escape valve
One of the references of Spanish athletics is Iraide Rodríguez, only 11 years old, who 48 hours after birth was diagnosed with a spinal cord injury that paralyzed her lower body. However, with the support of his family and his mental strength, he was not an obstacle to overcome the barriers that life had in store for him . Iraide practices a multitude of sports such as swimming, soccer, skiing or climbing. At the age of three, she started skiing and at seven she became the youngest person to ride a monoski by herself. Since 2020, he has been part of the Cofidis Cycling Paralympic Promises Team.
“Sport has meant the freedom that I do not have in my daily life due to architectural barriers,” argues the young athlete. ‘Architectural barriers’ is the expression that he has heard the most since he was born, but it refers to accessibility problems in any place, such as “steps, ramps with too much inclination or streetlights in the middle of the sidewalks that make access difficult on both sides” . For her, sport has meant “an improvement on a physical and mental level” and has nourished her with valuable values such as “sacrifice and companionship.”
Iraide explains that the education that his family has given him has helped him to forge his personality. In any case, his parents gave him the same education as a child without disabilities . In addition, she considers it essential that her school be fully adapted and that they take care of everything the young woman needs, despite the fact that she was the first student at the center with mobility limitations.
“Everything I do depends on my head and not my legs”
The athlete from the Cofidis Paralympic Promises Team regrets that people around her question how it is possible for her to take it well to live in a wheelchair, since for her it is her “companion of adventures” and everything she does “depends on my head and not my legs ”. For her, sport is her “escape valve” to feel like one more in her environment.
One of his dreams is to go to the ski or handbike Paralympics. Iraide is a clear example of integration into society through sport, being one of the athletes who face the future with enthusiasm and who seek their happiness by looking at “the positive side of life” .
Paralympic athletes are a great example for society.Paralympic athletes are a great example for society.COFIDIS
The real experience of Iraide and other people in the same situation inspires that of Carlos, protagonist of the fifth episode of the series ‘LIVES’: ‘A story of overcoming’ . Both Carlos and Iraide have opted for sports to fulfill their dreams, both being an inspiration and an example of the integration of disabled people in society. They are the role model to break down stigmas and barriers through sports life
The VIDAS series is a Cofidis project that starts from the experiences of real people, to tell stories that motivate them to pursue dreams and seek new paths to happiness. These life-changing projects shine for their desire to improve and invite us to make projects that make us regain our illusion come true. In one life there are many lives, why not live them all?