Omara Durand won the 200m T12 final to claim her third Paralympic championship at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021. Not only has she won every event she entered, but with this latest success she has now won a total of eight gold medals at the Games.
The Cuban legend got her start in sport at a boarding school for blind and visually impaired children and her physical education teacher saw potential in her. Durand confesses that when she was first selected she saw athletics as a game and as an escape.
"I was on scholarship and saw it as a way to get out of school. Then I climbed to more complex levels, fell in love with running and you see: today it is one of my great loves," she tells JIT.
She participated at the Beijing 2008 Games, although her first international experience was a year earlier, at the World Championships for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Brazil in 2007 where she won the 100m and 200m titles - a sign of what a legend she will one day be.
This made her one of the favourites for Beijing 2008, despite the fact that she was 16 years old and it was her first Games. Unfortunately, partly due to injury, she returned home empty-handed, but it gave her experience and a glimpse of what she was up against.
After London 2012, a more adult and experienced Omara continued to rise in the sport: she won two gold medals in the 100m and 400m without knowing at the time that she was pregnant. The Cuban athlete withdrew from competition for a while to take care of her daughter, but continued working to regain her form.
However, after the pregnancy Durand's vision worsened and she dropped from T13 to T12. It was then that she began competing with her guide Yuniol Kindelán, with whom she won three gold medals at Rio 2016 and set two world records.
For the Cuban runner, her worsening eyesight was not an issue. In fact, what she was most important for her was to recover her sporting performance. Her coach Miriam Ferrer was an important part of Durand's return to high performance competition.
"I had a very difficult time, but I never gave up, I always had the faith that I would be Omara again. Thanks to life and the magic that Miriam put in, I did better. I always say that after having my daughter my results have been better. She is a blessing," she explains to JIT.
At the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, she has once again retained her crown with three gold medals - which now adds to her current tally of eight gold medals in a career spanning 10 years.
Although she admits that getting to these Games was not easy, because of the whole global pandemic situation or the uncertainty of whether the Games would be held.
"From Tokyo 2020, the first fear I had was that the Games would be cancelled for good and I would have to wait for Paris 2024. That's why it's very good that they are taking place. It's not the same to wait one year as four, and it's good to make the most of the moments when you're in sporting form. I'm not 20 anymore, I'm going to be 30," she told JIT.
Despite all that she has achieved, Durand has no plans to stop here: the Cuban believes she still has the strength and energy to continue competing. Although titles and medals, she says, are not the most important thing for her.
"It doesn't matter what they call me, for me it's not the most important thing. The most important thing is that I love the sport, and every time I run I do it with a passion to shine," she concludes in Granma.
More to follow