Santiago 2023’s Stars: Maria Carolina Gomes, the Queen of Para Swimming

The Brazilian athlete, a triple champion at Tokyo 2020, was defending four individual Parapan American titles; she won all three events she participated in and added three more in team competitions.

Sunday, November 26th, 2023.- Maria Carolina Gomes, nicknamed the "Queen of Para Swimming" at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, came to Santiago 2023 as one of the great figures in world sports and certainly lived up to the expectations. 

At the previous Lima 2019 Parapan American Games, the Brazilian had won four individual finals, of which she could defend three: 100 meters breaststroke, 100 meters freestyle, and 50 meters freestyle, all in the S12 category (visual impairment). In the 400 freestyle, by technical decision, she did not participate. 

In addition to these three golds, this Para swimmer from Recife added two more at Santiago 2023 by being part of the teams that won the 4x100 meters freestyle 49 points mixed relay, the 4x100 meters medley 49 points mixed relay, and the 4x100 medley 34 points mixed relay. 

Maria Gomes, 38, was born with a congenital condition known as "morning glory syndrome," which is a defect in the optic nerve. Initially, she competed in swimming for athletes without disabilities, but gradually her condition worsened until she became completely blind at the age of 17. 

At 27, she returned to the pool, now as a Para swimmer, amassing an unstoppable string of victories, starting at the national level and then internationally, where she has accumulated five Paralympic medals (three golds, one silver, and one bronze at Tokyo 2020), eight gold medals in world championships, and 10 Parapan American gold medals (four in Lima and six in Santiago). 

Written by Marcelo López; translated by Rocio Rojas / Santiago 2023 via Photosport 
Photo by Christian Zapata / Santiago 2023 vía Photosport