Angelica Espinoza was a young 15-year-old schoolgirl when she started following the London 2012 Paralympic Games on TV from her home city of Lima, Peru.
“That is when I got to know about the Paralympic Movement and when I promised myself that I had to be there one day,” she recalled. Little did she know back then that nine years later she would become taekwondo’s first Paralympic champion ever and Peru’s first gold medallist in over two decades.
“From that first time I watched Para sport until now, I made everything I could to fulfil my dream. I fell in love with taekwondo, which I realised I was good at, and knew I had chances of improving and hopefully reaching the Paralympics one day.”
Fast-forward eight years and Espinoza was arriving in Tokyo as one of the heavy favourites for gold in the women’s K44 -49kg event.
At her home Parapan American Games in Lima in 2019, she had provided the hosts with one of the event’s enduring memories by winning gold. She followed that up with multiple titles at five of the six competitions she took part in prior to Tokyo 2020.
Not even the pandemic made her lose focus on her big goal. “I even feel the pandemic gave me this opportunity to prepare myself for an extra year. I trained hard over the last month and it was my dream to be here today standing on that podium and listening to the national anthem.”
In a thrilling final, she beat Turkey’s world No.2 Meryem Cavdar, therefore achieving Peru’s first Paralympic title in 21 years and first medal in 17.
“It is really exciting for me; all three combats were really tough and I feel very proud with the result, being the first taekwondo Paralympic champion feels great.”
Espinoza is confident her victory will help raise further awareness of Para sports in her country. “There will be more support and visibility,” she said.
Looking ahead to her next competitions, including the Santiago 2023 Parapan Ams and the Paris 2024 Paralympics, the 23-year-old does not want to want to lose her place atop of the podium. “I want to keep winning medals.”
She also has a final message for all her followers in Peru and around the world: “I want to tell them to strive and work hard to achieve what they want. Dreams do come true.”