Tokyo 2020: Marques oozes confidence in goalball
Date: August 5, 2021
The Tokyo Paralympics will be the most unique edition of the event’s long and storied history. For Brazilian star Romario Marques it will be a world away from Rio 2016.
Competing on the biggest stage in your own country is something only a handful of athletes will ever be able to experience so for Marques this year will be very different.
However if there was one athlete in the Brazil squad who would be able to cope with the different circumstances, it would be Marques. He will be travelling to Tokyo for his fourth Games, making him the most experienced member of a squad where the majority are attending their first or second Paralympics.
“Each Paralympics has its story. I’m going to my fourth edition and I have to guide the younger ones who are still on their first or second participation. As one of the leaders and captain of the squad, I’m always talking, giving tips. It is an honour for me to be part of this group, an immense satisfaction.”
Emotional control was important after their 10-1 semi-final defeat to the USA at Rio 2016 as, after the pain of missing out on an historic final, they had to prepare themselves for a third-place match against Sweden the following day where they claimed a bronze medal.
“It was very difficult to lose the semifinal at home, the way we lost it. But we are very close. As soon as the game was over, I called everyone and said we had to lift our heads and get the bronze medal. Since then, we’ve come back, we’ve been world champions, champions of the Parapan American Games.
For an opposing team to win today, it needs to be very well prepared.”
That Marques has again been selected to compete on the world stage is testament to his obvious talent, having been part of the national team since 2007. But goalball was not always the first sport he had success with.
“I first tried judo, in 2005, thanks to a colleague from the city of Natal who was on the Brazilian team. I even fought and became Brazilian champion among beginners. And this same friend invited me to try goalball. Within a year I had already managed to be called up for the Brazilian team.”
As with many athletes, sport has given Marques confidence off the court as well as on it when it came to dealing with the shock of becoming completely blind at just 17.
“My deficiency is retinitis pigmentosa, I was born deficient. My great-grandparents were blind and it’s hereditary. In the beginning it was very complicated, I didn’t have the autonomy to walk alone, I didn’t have independence, but the Paralympic sport gave me all that, both on the court and in my personal life.”
Since making his national team debut, Marques has enjoyed more than a decade of success with a world title in 2014 and gold at the 2011 and 2015 Parapan American Games and competing at the Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympics.
As one of the most experienced members of the team, Marques is aware of his role in mentoring the younger players.
“For me, it’s an honour to be one of the most experienced on the team. I really like helping young people, encouraging them, saying what it means to be a high-performance athlete, and what it means to represent our country in the Paralympic Games. Seeing them evolving on and off the court is very gratifying. I know many of them look up to me. My obligation is to try to help each one in the best way possible.”
This will be especially important during Tokyo 2020 but would have been equally important during the last year.
“It was very difficult for us athletes, as we were coming at the end of the cycle and we were physically and mentally fit to face the obstacles of the Paralympics ahead. But we arranged some training strategies, such as remote activities. We started training with the ball this year, the team is very focused and, if everything works out, we will achieve the final goal, which is the gold medal in Tokyo.”
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will take place from 24 August – 5 September with goalball beginning on 25 August and concluding on 3 September. All competitions will take place at Makuhari Messe.
By Sam Harris | For IBSA