Greek paralympic swimmer Antonios Tsapatakis won the gold medal on the opening day of the 2022 World Para Swimming Championships in Madeira, Portugal on Sunday.
Tsapatakis won the 100-meter breaststroke race in 1:36.27 ahead of two Colombian athletes who finished second and third.
A BATTLE RIGHT TO THE WALL 😱
🥇Antonio Tsapatakis 🇬🇷 takes the lead in the red markers and grabs the gold of the men’s 100m breaststroke
🥈M. FUENTES 🇨🇴
🥉M. NARVAEZ 🇨🇴
— #ParaSwimming (@Para_swimming) June 12, 2022
This is Tsapatakis’ first gold medal of his career and the first medal for Greece in the 2022 Paralympic Games so far. 34-year-old Tsapatakis had previously won one silver and three bronze medals at the World Championships.
The Tokyo bronze medalist from Crete played water polo before he was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident in 2006.
He began training and competing in Para swimming in 2009. He says it gave him strength after his injury, as he had always loved the sea.
Following his accomplishment, Antonios Tsapatakis commented on the importance of perseverance on social media and recalled the reaction of children who had looked up to him with admiration, first and foremost, not for the medals he had attained but for his consistent effort which, in and of itself, made him “a winner in their eyes.”
In his social media post, Tsapatakis emphasized the value of effort and the importance of feeling like a winner—as if one has “many gold medals, intangible or real” after each endeavor regardless of the result.
Tsapatakis changed the discrimination law in Greek police
The Greek para swimmer who was discharged from the police in 2009 due to his disability was reinstated into the force in March after launching a successful campaign to change the law.
Εσείς έχετε καταφέρει κάτι το οποίο δεν φανταστήκατε ποτέ;
Εγω σήμερα κατάφερα κάτι που δεν είχα τολμήσει καν να ονειρευτώ… pic.twitter.com/9MayQKAywc
— Antonis Tsapatakis (@ATsapatakis) March 17, 2022
Antonis Tsapatakis was considered by the Hellenic Police (ELAS) as incapable of carrying out his duties as a police officer. He was dismissed, together with fourteen of his colleagues who were also disabled.
Tsapatakis, who is confined to a wheelchair, did not give up, however. He worked for years to prove that the law on disability was discriminatory, and he eventually succeeded in making his point to ELAS.
“Have you ever achieved something you never imagined? Today I achieved something I had not even dared to dream,” he wrote on an Instagram post.