Ex-Colombian Rebel Heading For Paralympics In Tokyo
Zeeshan Mehtab 6 months ago Sat 12th December 2020 | 08:40 AM
Granada, Colombia, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 12th Dec, 2020 ) :Maimed in a horrific bombing, Colombian athlete Juan Jose Florian emerged from South America's longest conflict with three missing limbs and one clear goal -- to win gold at next year's Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Now he is on the cusp of realizing his biggest dream, competing in next year's Paralympics in Japan despite losing both his arms and a leg, blown off when he picked up a booby trapped package.
"I never imagined myself as an athlete," he told AFP. "My childhood dream was to be a soldier." Soldiering was cruel to him, however.
- Child soldier - FARC rebels raided his village when he was just 15 and like many other child soldiers, took him away to enlist in their ranks.
"Men from the FARC told me to come with them, that I was old enough to carry a rifle." "My older brother was in the army. If you gave a son to the government, for them it meant you had to give one to the revolution too," he said.
He thus became one of the Marxist guerrilla group's 6,068 child soldiers, according to Colombia's National Center for Historical Memory.
Years later, when his mother was the victim of extortion by the FARC -- a favored self-financing technique of the rebels -- they left a package outside her shop.
Florian picked it up.
After the blast, Florian remembers smoke rising from his skin. He couldn't feel his arms, or his right leg.
"I told my brother to go and get the rifle and shoot me in the head. Luckily, he didn't." Instead, he now sees the bombing that maimed him as a kind of turning point. "A gift of life." After spending 12 days in a coma and undergoing multiple surgeries to patch up his mutilated body, he spent a year doing physical rehabilitation. During that period, the now-retired soldier discovered the Paralympic Games and a love of swimming.
Cycling provided more opportunities to win medals however. Colombian Air Force engineers designed carbon fiber supports for the stumps of his elbows and knee.
He shifts gears with his mouth and brakes by applying pressure with his thigh.
At 38, he is one of the youngest of 30 athletes classified as C1, indicating the severity of their disability.
"Of all those in my category, I'm the most degraded, the most amputated," he said self-mockingly, triumphantly raising the stumps of his arms.
"I learned from Juan Jose. Not to say 'I can't', but to persevere," she said.