Susana Rodríguez wins Spain's first Paralympic gold medal in triathlon

Susana Rodriguez ESP and her guide Sara Loehr ESP exit the water at the end of the swimming stage in the Women’s Triathlon PTV1 at the Odaiba Marine Park. Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Tokyo, Japan, Saturday 28 August 2021. Photo: OIS/Joel Marklund. Handout image supplied by OIS/IOC
Susana Rodriguez ESP and her guide Sara Loehr ESP exit the water at the end of the swimming stage in the Women’s Triathlon PTV1 at the Odaiba Marine Park. Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Tokyo, Japan, Saturday 28 August 2021. Photo: OIS/Joel Marklund. Handout image supplied by OIS/IOC

The Galician athlete, doctor and 'Time' cover girl has achieved a historic triumph for the Spanish national team

Susana Rodriguez made history after winning Spain's first Paralympic gold medal in triathlon in the PTV1 event held in Odaiba Marine Park.

"In the world of sports, this means everything," Rodriguez said.

"We can do really good races, we can win world championships and each race has its own history. But there is nothing as big as the Paralympics."

Rodriguez' victory is a testament to her resilience as an athlete and as a person.

Thirteen years ago, Rodriguez was tapped to be part of the Beijing 2008 squad, only to be told that she didn't make the team.

After that heartbreaking moment, Rodriguez took a break from sports to become a physiotherapist and a doctor.

But sports came calling back. Alongside her medical career, Rodriguez discovered para triathlon and returned to competition at Rio 2016 where she placed fifth. Last year Rodriguez had to be on the frontlines to battle the onset of COVID-19 in Europe, but with Tokyo 2020 postponed to another year, Rodriguez had the opportunity to put her medical career aside to prepare for Tokyo 2020.

Rodriguez says participating in the Paralympics had always been a dream since she was young:

"Since I was a kid and I realised I had a disability I wanted to go to the Paralympics," the athlete who was born with albinism and severe eye impairment said.

Missing out in Beijing, return to form in Rio

Looking back at Beijing 2008 and not being able to make the squad, Rodriguez has no bitterness.

"Not having been at the Beijing Games years ago was one more adventure in the history of my life, something that annoyed me a lot at the time, but you can't go back. It helped me to choose other paths: to find triathlon and medicine. That's what I have to focus on and not what I couldn't do at the time," she said.

After discovering Para triathlon and focussing on her new sport, she started to accumulate good results. She reached the Rio 2016 Games and came fifth; before that she had already finished third at the World Championships in Edmonton 2014, Chicago 2015 and fourth in Rotterdam 2016.

Since the last Games, the Galician doctor has not dropped from the top step of the podium: she achieved a first place at the 2018 and 2019 World Championships, as well as at the European Championships held in Valencia, Spain, in 2019.

"I went to the Paralympics in Rio and finished fifth and promised myself I wanted a new opportunity. For that opportunity I needed to work very hard to get better in the three events of triathlon. This is what I have been doing in the lead-up to these Games and I think I have done my homework.

Winning gold at Tokyo 2020

After claiming victory in the women's triathlon PTV1 in Tokyo's Odaiba Marine Park, Rodriguez couldn't be more proud of her achievement:

"Today we (she and her guide Sara LOEHR, ESP) executed the plan to perfection."

Rodriguez will have another opportunity to enter the history books again. On Sunday she will compete in the women's T11 1500m in athletics.

"I will try to relax now and try to recover my legs. I need to keep calm, because this situation (of winning gold) gave me a lot of adrenaline.

"But we are professionals. It's like you go to work one day and the next day you have to work again and try to do your best. This is the same.

"Physically, this was very tough. I don't know how much it will affect me. I am racing with girls that solely prepared for the event (1500m), so I will just try to do my best.