Teresa Perales is a paralympic swimming champion, politician and public speaker. She was born in Zaragoza in 1975 and at the age of 19 was diagnosed with a rare condition which meant that she lost all feeling in her legs over a period of three months. At first she was highly embarrassed about being in a wheelchair. She started swimming wearing a life jacket but within a short period of time she discovered that she loved the feeling of weightlessness in the swimming pool and decided to take up swimming seriously.
Two years later Teresa was competing in Spanish national swimming championships and winning medals. At the age of 21 she won a bronze medal at the International Paralympics in New Zealand. Since then she has amassed bronze, silver and gold medals in a range of events at many European and International sporting events. Her daily training regime consists of four or five hours in the pool and an hour in the gym. Her specialist event is the 50m butterfly, which is her favourite stroke.
Perales won her first Olympic medal at the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney. At these games she met her husband, a journalist who interviewed her for the Spanish press. At the 2004 Athens Games she won two gold medals and at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics she won sixteen medals, making her one of two Spanish Paralympic athletes with most medals – the other being the blind sprinter Purificación Santamarta. After these games she took a break from the sport to give birth to her son.
At the 2012 London Games Teresa Perales was chosen to carry her country’s flag at the opening ceremony. She received a large amount of national media attention as a result of her performance as she won medals in each of the six events in which she competed. She is now the most decorated Spanish Paralympian in history.
Apart from her sporting achievements, Teresa has gained a Diploma in Physiotherapy and has served as a politician for the regional party Partido Aragonés. She has worked as coordinator and consultant for a number of regional organizations concerned with dependency and disability and in 2012 participated in a demonstration in Madrid against cutback to disability allowances.
She has been awarded Spain’s top sporting honours the Gran Cruz del Mérito Deportivo and the Medalla de Oro de la Real Orden del Mérito Deportivo. In 2007, Perales co-wrote an autobiography with her husband about her life titled Mi Vida Sobre Ruedas, She has been credited with putting paralympic sport on the map in Spain and at an event in her honour in Zaragoza it was said that she is an “example of perseverance, hard work and tenacity whose personality exceeds the limits of sport”.