Daniel Dias takes bronze in the men’s 200m freestyle S5 – Tokyo 2020 Paralympics
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Sebastian is the oldest among the 137 Spanish athletes entered in the Tokyo Paralympics. It won 16 medals at the Games in adapted swimming, with an emphasis in class S5 at the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Games. It lost ground precisely when the phenomenon Daniel Dias appeared in Beijing 2008.
Sebástian Rodriguez breathes as he swims alongside the red lane in the final of the Class S5 200m freestyle — Photo: Getty Images
As it glistened in the water, Sebastian saw the past outside it being turned over by the Spanish press. A newspaper revealed that he had been a guerrilla, arrested and convicted of murder and bombings. In his youth he was part of the Antifascist Resistance Group First of October (GRAPO) and committed crimes under the justification of fighting the regime of dictator Francisco Franco.
They spent six years in detention with fellow guerrillas before the authorities separated them in different penitentiaries. As a form of protest, the group started a hunger strike. Sebastian’s left aftereffects. The lack of food made him lose movement in his legs. Ironically, the disability helped him to leave prison in 1994, benefiting from a Spanish law that allows inmates with serious or incurable health problems to receive parole.
Sebástian Rodriguez, Daniel Dias and Roy Perkins pose with medals at a Rio 2016 test event — Photo: Daniel Zappe/MPIX/CPB
His disability had been reported to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) as a result of a car accident. With the revelation of the dark past, Sebastian ran the risk of having the medals revoked, but was acquitted of this process. For crimes as a guerrilla he was amnesty in 2007.
– I am what I am for everything I’ve lived. My way of life led me to make serious mistakes, but it was my way of life that also brought me here, to five Paralympic Games… I get up at 4:30 am to train, I have a regulated diet. Why? Because the human being always wants to advance, to evolve. For that, you have to fight – said the swimmer, in an interview with ge in 2016.
Now in his sixth edition of the Paralympics, Sebastian no longer fights for medals. But just his presence in the 200m final this Wednesday provides a series of examples for his opponents and for the public. By covering the distance in 2min52s12, he shows the importance of taking care of the body to maintain high performance even in old age.
And anyone who thinks that the Spaniard is satisfied is wrong. Although he is no longer a candidate for medals, he still has two competitions to go in Tokyo: the 50m and 100m freestyle S5 qualifiers. Will there be another final around?