TAMARA LEONELLI FROM CHILE GETS FIRST GOLD MEDAL AT LIMA 2019
The Para table tennis player qualified for Tokyo 2020, after beating Colombian Nelly Sánchez.
Within approximately 30 minutes of the match, the Para table tennis player from Chile defeated Colombian Nelly Sánchez in three consecutive sets, thus receiving the first gold medal of Lima 2019 and directly qualifying for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
“This is an honor for me. I dreamed of it so many times... Winning a medal here and qualifying for Tokyo 2020 is a dream come true. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so excited. I’m overjoyed,” said the champion.
Leonelli, fifteenth in the world ranking of this sport, who won the bronze medal at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, competed in Para table tennis class 5 (wheelchair, with regular torso muscle functions). Tomorrow, she will receive the first Parapan American Games medal.
“It’s wonderful. It’s never happened to me before and I hope it gives all the other athletes an extra boost, motivates them and lets them know that it really is possible. I’m so proud to have won the first medal of the Games for Chile.”
The result in each set against the Colombian player was 11-7, 11-3 and 12-10, with advantage for Tamara who, in previous rounds, faced off with the Brazilian and Argentinian representatives who also lost to her, 3-0 and 3-2, respectively.
“I think it’s been a very tough competition, obviously the level of the championship makes it even more difficult. But I’m just the visible face of everyone's effort. No one imagines how many people are helping behind the scenes. No only behind this stage, also life’s stage.”
Team Chile present on the podium
Cristian González from Chile has also secured another medal for his country in men’s class 4 by defeating El Salvador’s Gabriel Espinoza 3-0 and Brazilian Ecildo Oliveira 3-1, ensuring his spot in the semifinals. The gold medal may be around the corner: the final will be played tomorrow.
“I think that, broadly speaking, we’ve been improving a lot as a team. Chile is establishing itself in American Para table tennis, as well as European. We all try to win and show that we can do it because we have a good level of competition; the Americas in general does,” said Leonelli.
In the Parapan American Games, a total of 617 gold medals and silver medals will be awarded, in addition to 679 bronze medals, making it a total of 1913 to be distributed during this international event.
Para table tennis is being held at Sports Center 3 of the National Sports Village (VIDENA) and will end on August 27.