Disability

Daniel Dias

Paralympian Daniel Dias hasn't always accepted his disability. Often he questioned God, asking “Why me?” “When I started school, I was different. The children would stare at me, and I would feel embarrassed. Sometimes I was called names,” Daniel remembers. “And that really hurt me as a child.” Watching the Paralympics in Athens, Daniel learned there were sports for people with disabilities. In just eight lessons, he learned all four strokes: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle. “It was God’s way of telling me: ‘This is your gift,’” Daniel says. “’Use it to speak of Me.’”

Leap of Faith

Within two years of learning to swim, Daniel was representing Brazil in international competition. In 2008, he traveled to Beijing to compete in the Paralympic Games where he won several races by a large margin. He met his match in the 50 meter butterfly, where he came in second to American Roy Perkins. Despite this loss, Daniel left Beijing with nine medals - more than any other competitor. When it came time for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, Daniel had the honor of carrying the flag for Brazil. Also in London, Daniel had another chance to race against Roy Perkins in the 50 meter butterfly.

“I started in front of him, but after 25 meters, I saw him catching up to me. With ten meters left, I focused on the finish and didn’t breathe on the strokes,” Daniel recalls.

He won, making a historic performance in London. Daniel earned six gold medals and set six new world records. In 2013, for the second time in his career, Daniel won the Laureus award, recognizing the best disabled athlete of the year,. “Through these achievements, I am beginning to understand why God made me this way,” Daniel says. “But the main thing is to serve Him. And to live my life as a follower of Christ. All these achievements will fade away, but the love of Christ will never fade away.” “Christ doesn’t look at how many arms or legs I have. Christ looks at our hearts. And because of that I feel free. I feel just like any other person,” Daniel says. “I don't feel disabled at all.”