Victims & Heroes - PhMuseum

Victims & Heroes

Eduardo Leal

2016

Colombia

Colombia’s armed conflict, which started in the 1960’s, might be close to an end. After almost four years of negotiations between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, commonly known as FARC, a ceasefire was signed on June 23rd 2016 and final agreement reached on August 24th 2016, but is still in the working since a majority of the voters didn't approved the current deal through referendum.

During the conflict more than 220,000 people have been killed and close to seven million have been displaced, generating the world’s second largest population of internal displaced. According to a Handicap International survey, 80% of the survivors of the armed struggle in Colombia have a disability.

Maritza, Fábio, Moises, Edwin, Jonathan, German, Joe and Oscar, are only eight of the victims of the conflict that suffer a form of disability, each one with their individual story, each with their own struggle from a traumatic experience that changed the rest of their lives. Through rehabilitation they have been able to focus in sports to overcome whatever limitation they have, and become successful athletes in their own right.

Five of them competed in the 2016 Paralympics games in Rio representing Colombia and three of them reached the podium. The others were not able to go to the games or get medals, but they are not less heroes for that; they all represent and are an inspiration for the many other victims of the conflict.

{{ readMoreButton }}

  • Maritza Arango, 38, arrives to the athletics complex at Atanasio Girardot Stadium in Medellín, June 2016.

    18 years ago Maritza discovered that she suffered from “Retinitis Pigmentosa”, a disease of the eye that leads to loss of vision and eventually to blindness.
    Maritza used to live in Argelia, a village of Antioquia Department, where her family had a farm and the little town’s only shop. Her family were forced to sell products to everyone, including all the different armed forces that operated in the area. Rumors started circulating that her family would be a target by the guerrillas. Her family decided to leave the village and move to Medellin. They left with only the clothes they wore. Days after they left, there was a massacre perpetrated by the guerrilla next to her house. With time Maritza lost completely her sight, and on top of that being displaced she started struggle to make money to support her child.
    But her life changed again when in 2008, Maritza was invited by a friend to try athletics, as a way to make an income. Trials in track running went well. In two years she started to go to international competitions and started winning competitions.
    But for Maritza the most amazing thing is that she never thought she would be a sportswoman. She confesses that before she didn’t even know what the athletics or Olympic games were. “Leaving my town was like a blessing. When I lived there I thought that would be my life. I never imagine this or even getting into a plane. Never, ever…” Maritza won the Bronze Medal on the 1,500 meters during the 2016 Paralympic Games.

  • Maritza Arango, 38, stretches before a training session at Atanasio Girardot Stadium in Medellin, June 2016.

    18 years ago Maritza discovered that she suffered from “Retinitis Pigmentosa”, a disease of the eye that leads to loss of vision and eventually to blindness.
    Maritza used to live in Argelia, a village of Antioquia Department, where her family had a farm and the little town’s only shop. Her family were forced to sell products to everyone, including all the different armed forces that operated in the area. Rumors started circulating that her family would be a target by the guerrillas. Her family decided to leave the village and move to Medellin. They left with only the clothes they wore. Days after they left, there was a massacre perpetrated by the guerrilla next to her house. With time Maritza lost completely her sight, and on top of that being displaced she started struggle to make money to support her child.
    But her life changed again when in 2008, Maritza was invited by a friend to try athletics, as a way to make an income. Trials in track running went well. In two years she started to go to international competitions and started winning competitions.
    But for Maritza the most amazing thing is that she never thought she would be a sportswoman. She confesses that before she didn’t even know what the athletics or Olympic games were. “Leaving my town was like a blessing. When I lived there I thought that would be my life. I never imagine this or even getting into a plane. Never, ever…” Maritza won the Bronze Medal on the 1,500 meters during the 2016 Paralympic Games.

  • Maritza Arango, 38, during a training session in Medellin with her guide Jonathan Gonzales, 27, and her sister, Adriana Arango, 35. Her sister also suffers from the same health condition.

    18 years ago Maritza discovered that she suffered from “Retinitis Pigmentosa”, a disease of the eye that leads to loss of vision and eventually to blindness.
    Maritza used to live in Argelia, a village of Antioquia Department, where her family had a farm and the little town’s only shop. Her family were forced to sell products to everyone, including all the different armed forces that operated in the area. Rumors started circulating that her family would be a target by the guerrillas. Her family decided to leave the village and move to Medellin. They left with only the clothes they wore. Days after they left, there was a massacre perpetrated by the guerrilla next to her house. With time Maritza lost completely her sight, and on top of that being displaced she started struggle to make money to support her child.
    But her life changed again when in 2008, Maritza was invited by a friend to try athletics, as a way to make an income. Trials in track running went well. In two years she started to go to international competitions and started winning competitions.
    But for Maritza the most amazing thing is that she never thought she would be a sportswoman. She confesses that before she didn’t even know what the athletics or Olympic games were. “Leaving my town was like a blessing. When I lived there I thought that would be my life. I never imagine this or even getting into a plane. Never, ever…” Maritza won the Bronze Medal on the 1,500 meters during the 2016 Paralympic Games.

  • Maritza Arango, 38, rests of exhaustion after a hard training session where she had to run over 8 kms at Atanasio Girardot Stadium in Medellin, June 2016.

    18 years ago Maritza discovered that she suffered from “Retinitis Pigmentosa”, a disease of the eye that leads to loss of vision and eventually to blindness.
    Maritza used to live in Argelia, a village of Antioquia Department, where her family had a farm and the little town’s only shop. Her family were forced to sell products to everyone, including all the different armed forces that operated in the area. Rumors started circulating that her family would be a target by the guerrillas. Her family decided to leave the village and move to Medellin. They left with only the clothes they wore. Days after they left, there was a massacre perpetrated by the guerrilla next to her house. With time Maritza lost completely her sight, and on top of that being displaced she started struggle to make money to support her child.
    But her life changed again when in 2008, Maritza was invited by a friend to try athletics, as a way to make an income. Trials in track running went well. In two years she started to go to international competitions and started winning competitions.
    But for Maritza the most amazing thing is that she never thought she would be a sportswoman. She confesses that before she didn’t even know what the athletics or Olympic games were. “Leaving my town was like a blessing. When I lived there I thought that would be my life. I never imagine this or even getting into a plane. Never, ever…” Maritza won the Bronze Medal on the 1,500 meters during the 2016 Paralympic Games.

  • Fabio Torres, 39, before a training session of power-lifting in High Performance Center, Bogotá, Bogotá, June 2016.

    Fabio is a retired Army Corporal. In 2008, he stepped on a landmine while on patrol in the Colombian jungle, losing his left leg. The accident became a big change in Fabio’s life; he felt he had to learn everything again. Fabio found strength to continue his life through sport, and specially power-lifting, which he at first just practiced as hobby. Since 2009 he dedicates all his time to the sport, in the beginning just as a rehabilitation process and now as full time sportsman. He has had a successful year, in 2016; Fabio became World Champion of Power-lifting in Brazil after lifting 211kg. In the Rio 2016 Paralympics, he wants to bring a medal home. Regarding the violence in his country, he hopes that the peace process goes further. There are already too many victims, and he doesn’t want people to go through what he has been through. He believes that the country need less violence and more sports, so they can get peace in Colombia.

  • Physiotherapist Jorge Ortiz helps Fabio Torres, 39, stretch during a training session of power-lifting in High Performance Center, Bogotá, June 2016.

    Fabio is a retired Army Corporal. In 2008, he stepped on a landmine while on patrol in the Colombian jungle, losing his left leg. The accident became a big change in Fabio’s life; he felt he had to learn everything again. Fabio found strength to continue his life through sport, and specially power-lifting, which he at first just practiced as hobby. Since 2009 he dedicates all his time to the sport, in the beginning just as a rehabilitation process and now as full time sportsman. He has had a successful year, in 2016; Fabio became World Champion of Power-lifting in Brazil after lifting 211kg. In the Rio 2016 Paralympics, he wants to bring a medal home. Regarding the violence in his country, he hopes that the peace process goes further. There are already too many victims, and he doesn’t want people to go through what he has been through. He believes that the country need less violence and more sports, so they can get peace in Colombia.

  • Fabio Torres, 39, lifts 240kgs under the supervision of his coach Henri Oviedo during a training session in the High Performance Center, Bogotá, June 2016.

    Fabio is a retired Army Corporal. In 2008, he stepped on a landmine while on patrol in the Colombian jungle, losing his left leg. The accident became a big change in Fabio’s life; he felt he had to learn everything again. Fabio found strength to continue his life through sport, and specially power-lifting, which he at first just practiced as hobby. Since 2009 he dedicates all his time to the sport, in the beginning just as a rehabilitation process and now as full time sportsman. He has had a successful year, in 2016; Fabio became World Champion of Power-lifting in Brazil after lifting 211kg. In the Rio 2016 Paralympics, he wants to bring a medal home. Regarding the violence in his country, he hopes that the peace process goes further. There are already too many victims, and he doesn’t want people to go through what he has been through. He believes that the country need less violence and more sports, so they can get peace in Colombia.

  • Fabio Torres, 39, takes a break during a training session at the High Performance Center, Bogotá, June 2016.

    Fabio is a retired Army Corporal. In 2008, he stepped on a landmine while on patrol in the Colombian jungle, losing his left leg. The accident became a big change in Fabio’s life; he felt he had to learn everything again. Fábio found strength to continue his life through sport, and specially power-lifting, which he at first just practiced as hobby. Since 2009 he dedicates all his time to the sport, in the beginning just as a rehabilitation process and now as full time sportsman. He has had a successful year, in 2016; Fabio became World Champion of Power-lifting in Brazil after lifting 211kg. In the Rio 2016 Paralympics, he wants to bring a medal home. Regarding the violence in his country, he hopes that the peace process goes further. There are already too many victims, and he doesn’t want people to go through what he has been through. He believes that the country need less violence and more sports, so they can get peace in Colombia.

  • Moises Fuentes Garcia, 41, sits on the border of the swimming pool, before the beginning of his training session at the Simon Bolivar Aquatic Complex, Bogotá, June 2016.

    Moises used to be a farmer and sell cattle with his brother when in October 1992, Paramilitaries in the region of Santa Marta targeted them. Moises was shot six times, and his brother killed. He was “lucky” to survive, one of the bullets crossed his neck, and one stuck into his spine and he couldn’t walk again. However it did not end there, a few months later, during a rehabilitation session he broke his leg and due to an infection he had to amputate it. Moises felt it wasn’t worth living anymore. But after meeting a group of other victims that had even more severe injures, he grabbed life with will and began to feel motivated. He started playing wheelchair basketball and studying. In the process of the rehabilitation he was spotted as a good swimmer, even if he didn’t possess any technique. After some success on the swimming pool, he became completely dedicated to the sport, while finishing degrees as a tailor, public accountant and hopes to graduate as a sport teacher next year.
    Among many achievements he won the Bronze medal in 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing and Silver medal on the 2012 Paralympic Games in London on the 100 meters breaststroke category.
    He believes that people must value their life, what they have and help people on the way. “Everyone is a champion, but some people don’t do the necessary to really became one” he says. Moises won the Bronze Medal on 100 meters breastroke SB4 during the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

  • Moises Fuentes Garcia, 41, swims during a training session at the Simon Bolivar Aquatic Complex, Bogotá, June 2016.

    Moises used to be a farmer and sell cattle with his brother when in October 1992, Paramilitaries in the region of Santa Marta targeted them. Moises was shot six times, and his brother killed. He was “lucky” to survive, one of the bullets crossed his neck, and one stuck into his spine and he couldn’t walk again. However it did not end there, a few months later, during a rehabilitation session he broke his leg and due to an infection he had to amputate it. Moises felt it wasn’t worth living anymore. But after meeting a group of other victims that had even more severe injures, he grabbed life with will and began to feel motivated. He started playing wheelchair basketball and studying. In the process of the rehabilitation he was spotted as a good swimmer, even if he didn’t possess any technique. After some success on the swimming pool, he became completely dedicated to the sport, while finishing degrees as a tailor, public accountant and hopes to graduate as a sport teacher next year.
    Among many achievements he won the Bronze medal in 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing and Silver medal on the 2012 Paralympic Games in London on the 100 meters breaststroke category.
    He believes that people must value their life, what they have and help people on the way. “Everyone is a champion, but some people don’t do the necessary to really became one” he says. Moises won the Bronze Medal on 100 meters breastroke SB4 during the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

  • Moises Fuentes Garcia, 41, takes a break during a training session at the Simon Bolivar Aquatic Complex, Bogotá, June 2016.

    Moises used to be a farmer and sell cattle with his brother when in October 1992, Paramilitaries in the region of Santa Marta targeted them. Moises was shot six times, and his brother killed. He was “lucky” to survive, one of the bullets crossed his neck, and one stuck into his spine and he couldn’t walk again. However it did not end there, a few months later, during a rehabilitation session he broke his leg and due to an infection he had to amputate it. Moises felt it wasn’t worth living anymore. But after meeting a group of other victims that had even more severe injures, he grabbed life with will and began to feel motivated. He started playing wheelchair basketball and studying. In the process of the rehabilitation he was spotted as a good swimmer, even if he didn’t possess any technique. After some success on the swimming pool, he became completely dedicated to the sport, while finishing degrees as a tailor, public accountant and hopes to graduate as a sport teacher next year.
    Among many achievements he won the Bronze medal in 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing and Silver medal on the 2012 Paralympic Games in London on the 100 meters breaststroke category.
    He believes that people must value their life, what they have and help people on the way. “Everyone is a champion, but some people don’t do the necessary to really became one” he says. Moises won the Bronze Medal on 100 meters breastroke SB4 during the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

  • Moises Fuentes Garcia, 41, does pushovers on the border of a pool after a training session at the Simon Bolivar Aquatic Complex, Bogotá, June 2016.

    Moises used to be a farmer and sell cattle with his brother when in October 1992, Paramilitaries in the region of Santa Marta targeted them. Moises was shot six times, and his brother killed. He was “lucky” to survive, one of the bullets crossed his neck, and one stuck into his spine and he couldn’t walk again. However it did not end there, a few months later, during a rehabilitation session he broke his leg and due to an infection he had to amputate it. Moises felt it wasn’t worth living anymore. But after meeting a group of other victims that had even more severe injures, he grabbed life with will and began to feel motivated. He started playing wheelchair basketball and studying. In the process of the rehabilitation he was spotted as a good swimmer, even if he didn’t possess any technique. After some success on the swimming pool, he became completely dedicated to the sport, while finishing degrees as a tailor, public accountant and hopes to graduate as a sport teacher next year.
    Among many achievements he won the Bronze medal in 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing and Silver medal on the 2012 Paralympic Games in London on the 100 meters breaststroke category.
    He believes that people must value their life, what they have and help people on the way. “Everyone is a champion, but some people don’t do the necessary to really became one” he says. Moises won the Bronze Medal on 100 meters breastroke SB4 during the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

  • Edwin Matiz, 23, waits for his bike to be fixed during a training session at the Salitre Sports complex, Bogotá, June 2016.

    Edwin has been practicing Paralympic Cycling since he was 16 years old. At the age of 12, he lost his left hand while playing with an anti-personnel mine that was left on the side road by the guerrillas. The process of recuperation was long and difficult because his parents lacked financial resources. Through the help of some charities and foundations he was able to rehabilitate, mostly through the practice of cycling. After he finished high school, he started to focus 100 per cent of his time to the sport and he has managed to qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. He dreams of a medal but he says that just to represent his country is already a good prize for now. Edwin won the Bronze Medal on the cycling men's individual pursuit C4 during the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

  • Edwin Matiz, 23, gets ready to start the counter clock training, while his coach Tulio Comcel holds the bicycle on Salitre Sports Complex, Bogotá, June 2016.

    Edwin has been practicing Paralympic Cycling since he was 16 years old. At the age of 12, he lost his left hand while playing with an anti-personnel mine that was left on the side road by the guerrillas. The process of recuperation was long and difficult because his parents lacked financial resources. Through the help of some charities and foundations he was able to rehabilitate, mostly through the practice of cycling. After he finished high school, he started to focus 100 per cent of his time to the sport and he has managed to qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. He dreams of a medal but he says that just to represent his country is already a good prize for now. Edwin won the Bronze Medal on the cycling men's individual pursuit C4 during the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

  • Edwin Matiz, 23, in the middle, chances a motorbike during one of his training sessions at Salitre Sports Complex, Bogotá, June 2016. Paralympics Cyclists chase the motorbike in order to improve their times on the racetrack.

    Edwin has been practicing Paralympic Cycling since he was 16 years old. At the age of 12, he lost his left hand while playing with an anti-personnel mine that was left on the side road by the guerrillas. The process of recuperation was long and difficult because his parents lacked financial resources. Through the help of some charities and foundations he was able to rehabilitate, mostly through the practice of cycling. After he finished high school, he started to focus 100 per cent of his time to the sport and he has managed to qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. He dreams of a medal but he says that just to represent his country is already a good prize for now. Edwin won the Bronze Medal on the cycling men's individual pursuit C4 during the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

  • Edwin Matiz, 23, is in pain during a stretching session after the cycling practice at Salitre Sports Complex, Bogotá, June 2016.

    Edwin has been practicing Paralympic Cycling since he was 16 years old. At the age of 12, he lost his left hand while playing with an anti-personnel mine that was left on the side road by the guerrillas. The process of recuperation was long and difficult because his parents lacked financial resources. Through the help of some charities and foundations he was able to rehabilitate, mostly through the practice of cycling. After he finished high school, he started to focus 100 per cent of his time to the sport and he has managed to qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. He dreams of a medal but he says that just to represent his country is already a good prize for now. Edwin won the Bronze Medal on the cycling men's individual pursuit C4 during the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

  • Jonathan Fontes, 35, looks through a volleyball net during a training session at the High Performance Complex, Bogotá, June 2016.

    Jonathan is a retired soldier of the Colombian army. In 2012, he stepped on an anti-personnel mine during a routine round in the Caqueta department, losing his right leg. At the beginning the process of recuperation was difficult, since he felt he was totally dependent on others.
    At first he started to focus on weightlifting sports, but found he was too tall. He was recommend to try seated volleyball, a sport that until then was unknown to him. Nowadays, he is the Captain of the Colombian team. The dream is to arrive to the Rio 2016 Paralympic games, but the national team only started to play the sport for the first time in 2011.
    The Colombian Volleyball net team finished 4th in the Pan-American Games of Toronto in 2015. Unfortunately they needed to have finished 2nd in order to qualify for a spot on this year Paralympics. Jonathan believes it still isn’t the right time and that they have much more to learn. Instead they aim to work hard and be on the next Paralympics in Tokyo 2020.

  • Jonathan Fontes, 35, trains passing against a wall with his team mates during a training session at the High Performance Complex, Bogotá, June 2016.

    Jonathan is a retired soldier of the Colombian army. In 2012, he stepped on an anti-personnel mine during a routine round in the Caqueta department, losing his right leg. At the beginning the process of recuperation was difficult, since he felt he was totally dependent on others.
    At first he started to focus on weightlifting sports, but found he was too tall. He was recommend to try seated volleyball, a sport that until then was unknown to him. Nowadays, he is the Captain of the Colombian team. The dream is to arrive to the Rio 2016 Paralympic games, but the national team only started to play the sport for the first time in 2011.
    The Colombian Volleyball net team finished 4th in the Pan-American Games of Toronto in 2015. Unfortunately they needed to have finished 2nd in order to qualify for a spot on this year Paralympics. Jonathan believes it still isn’t the right time and that they have much more to learn. Instead they aim to work hard and be on the next Paralympics in Tokyo 2020.

  • Jonathan Fontes, 35, hits the ball during a training match at the High Performance Complex, Bogotá, June 2016.

    Jonathan is a retired soldier of the Colombian army. In 2012, he stepped on an anti-personnel mine during a routine round in the Caqueta department, losing his right leg. At the beginning the process of recuperation was difficult, since he felt he was totally dependent on others.
    At first he started to focus on weightlifting sports, but found he was too tall. He was recommend to try seated volleyball, a sport that until then was unknown to him. Nowadays, he is the Captain of the Colombian team. The dream is to arrive to the Rio 2016 Paralympic games, but the national team only started to play the sport for the first time in 2011.
    The Colombian Volleyball net team finished 4th in the Pan-American Games of Toronto in 2015. Unfortunately they needed to have finished 2nd in order to qualify for a spot on this year Paralympics. Jonathan believes it still isn’t the right time and that they have much more to learn. Instead they aim to work hard and be on the next Paralympics in Tokyo 2020.

  • Jonathan Fontes, 35, relaxes after a training session at the High Performance Complex, Bogotá, June 2016.

    Jonathan is a retired soldier of the Colombian army. In 2012, he stepped on an anti-personnel mine during a routine round in the Caqueta department, losing his right leg. At the beginning the process of recuperation was difficult, since he felt he was totally dependent on others.
    At first he started to focus on weightlifting sports, but found he was too tall. He was recommend to try seated volleyball, a sport that until then was unknown to him. Nowadays, he is the Captain of the Colombian team. The dream is to arrive to the Rio 2016 Paralympic games, but the national team only started to play the sport for the first time in 2011.
    The Colombian Volleyball net team finished 4th in the Pan-American Games of Toronto in 2015. Unfortunately they needed to have finished 2nd in order to qualify for a spot on this year Paralympics. Jonathan believes it still isn’t the right time and that they have much more to learn. Instead they aim to work hard and be on the next Paralympics in Tokyo 2020.

  • German Gomez, 49, stretches before start of his training at the Belen Sports Complex, Medellin, April 2016.

    German used to look for gold with his father on the region of Choco. But the National Liberation Army (ELN) started to threaten them and wanted Germans family to pay to the ELN for “protection”. Because German’s family refused to pay, they had to leave their village and everything behind. They became displaced. Despite this, the guerrilla did not stop chasing them and when they found them, German and his father were both shot. His father died. German suffered an injury in his last vertebra, becoming paraplegic.
    With the help of a Foundation that supports victims through sports, German started his rehabilitation program. First, he started with swimming, he had never swum before but only after 6 months he won a silver medal at a competition. But months later he had a cramp while practising, and almost drown. The incident made him so afraid that he’s never returned to a swimming pool again.
    As German was good at shooting in the army, he decided to try a sport that requires this skill. He started to focus on arrowing and after a few months he qualified for the 2015 Pan-American Games where he finished in 5th place. German managed to qualify to the Rio 2016 Paralympic, and his goal is not only to get a good result, but he also needs it in order to get a sponsorship that will allow him to live off his sport. Currently, he fixes broken computers and smartphones between practices and competitions to pay his bills.

  • German Gomez, 49, talks with his coach at the Belen Sports Complex, Medellin, April 2016.

    German used to look for gold with his father on the region of Choco. But the National Liberation Army (ELN) started to threaten them and wanted Germans family to pay to the ELN for “protection”. Because German’s family refused to pay, they had to leave their village and everything behind. They became displaced. Despite this, the guerrilla did not stop chasing them and when they found them, German and his father were both shot. His father died. German suffered an injury in his last vertebra, becoming paraplegic.
    With the help of a Foundation that supports victims through sports, German started his rehabilitation program. First, he started with swimming, he had never swum before but only after 6 months he won a silver medal at a competition. But months later he had a cramp while practising, and almost drown. The incident made him so afraid that he’s never returned to a swimming pool again.
    As German was good at shooting in the army, he decided to try a sport that requires this skill. He started to focus on arrowing and after a few months he qualified for the 2015 Pan-American Games where he finished in 5th place. German managed to qualify to the Rio 2016 Paralympic, and his goal is not only to get a good result, but he also needs it in order to get a sponsorship that will allow him to live off his sport. Currently, he fixes broken computers and smartphones between practices and competitions to pay his bills.

  • German Gomez, 49, practices arrowing with a few colleagues at the Belen Sports Complex, Medellin, April 2016.

    German used to look for gold with his father on the region of Choco. But the National Liberation Army (ELN) started to threaten them and wanted Germans family to pay to the ELN for “protection”. Because German’s family refused to pay, they had to leave their village and everything behind. They became displaced. Despite this, the guerrilla did not stop chasing them and when they found them, German and his father were both shot. His father died. German suffered an injury in his last vertebra, becoming paraplegic.
    With the help of a Foundation that supports victims through sports, German started his rehabilitation program. First, he started with swimming, he had never swum before but only after 6 months he won a silver medal at a competition. But months later he had a cramp while practising, and almost drown. The incident made him so afraid that he’s never returned to a swimming pool again.
    As German was good at shooting in the army, he decided to try a sport that requires this skill. He started to focus on arrowing and after a few months he qualified for the 2015 Pan-American Games where he finished in 5th place. German managed to qualify to the Rio 2016 Paralympic, and his goal is not only to get a good result, but he also needs it in order to get a sponsorship that will allow him to live off his sport. Currently, he fixes broken computers and smartphones between practices and competitions to pay his bills.

  • German Gomez, 49, collects the arrows from the target sign during a practice session at the Belen Sports Complex, Medellin, April 2016.

    German used to look for gold with his father on the region of Choco. But the National Liberation Army (ELN) started to threaten them and wanted Germans family to pay to the ELN for “protection”. Because German’s family refused to pay, they had to leave their village and everything behind. They became displaced. Despite this, the guerrilla did not stop chasing them and when they found them, German and his father were both shot. His father died. German suffered an injury in his last vertebra, becoming paraplegic.
    With the help of a Foundation that supports victims through sports, German started his rehabilitation program. First, he started with swimming, he had never swum before but only after 6 months he won a silver medal at a competition. But months later he had a cramp while practising, and almost drown. The incident made him so afraid that he’s never returned to a swimming pool again.
    As German was good at shooting in the army, he decided to try a sport that requires this skill. He started to focus on arrowing and after a few months he qualified for the 2015 Pan-American Games where he finished in 5th place. German managed to qualify to the Rio 2016 Paralympic, and his goal is not only to get a good result, but he also needs it in order to get a sponsorship that will allow him to live off his sport. Currently, he fixes broken computers and smartphones between practices and competitions to pay his bills.

  • Joe Gonzalez Bettencourt, 38, warms up before the practice of weight throwing at Atanasio Girardot Stadium, Medellin, March 2016.

    Joe was a teenager when a paramilitary group approached him and his friends to become part of the Bloque Cacique Nutibara gang by starting to steal and kill. Joe and his friends refused because they didn’t like violence and were more interested in party and living a life like any other normal teenager. But that refuse came with a high price. Joe and his best friend were chased on motorbike and the gang shot them. Joe was hit twice, one bullet hit his neck and another bullet hit his abdomen leaving through the lower back, making him paraplegic. His friend died.
    At the time of the incident, Joe was trying to become a football player, so sports were always part of his life. When he understood that he would be on a wheel chair he took on sports to keep going with his life. He started to play basketball, then tennis and in both he was National Champion. It was through his wife, who also is a Paralympics athlete, that he became interested in weigh throwing and javelin. On Joe’s second tournament he became national champion, a title that he still holds today. During his progression on the sport he reached 4th in the world. Joe qualified to the Rio 2016 Paralympic games, but due to quota places he might not be able to go, something that he feels is quite unfair after so much work.
    Asked about his feeling for the responsible people that shot him, he says, “We must be peaceful, forgive, but never forget. I will never forget because everyday I have to sit on this chair”.

  • Joe Gonzalez Bettencourt, 38, throws a weight ball during a practice at Atanasio Girardot Stadium, Medellin, March 2016.

    Joe was a teenager when a paramilitary group approached him and his friends to become part of the Bloque Cacique Nutibara gang by starting to steal and kill. Joe and his friends refused because they didn’t like violence and were more interested in party and living a life like any other normal teenager. But that refuse came with a high price. Joe and his best friend were chased on motorbike and the gang shot them. Joe was hit twice, one bullet hit his neck and another bullet hit his abdomen leaving through the lower back, making him paraplegic. His friend died.
    At the time of the incident, Joe was trying to become a football player, so sports were always part of his life. When he understood that he would be on a wheel chair he took on sports to keep going with his life. He started to play basketball, then tennis and in both he was National Champion. It was through his wife, who also is a Paralympics athlete, that he became interested in weigh throwing and javelin. On Joe’s second tournament he became national champion, a title that he still holds today. During his progression on the sport he reached 4th in the world. Joe qualified to the Rio 2016 Paralympic games, but due to quota places he might not be able to go, something that he feels is quite unfair after so much work.
    Asked about his feeling for the responsible people that shot him, he says, “We must be peaceful, forgive, but never forget. I will never forget because everyday I have to sit on this chair”.

  • Joe Gonzalez Bettencourt, 38, lifts weight during a gym session at Atanasio Girardot Stadium, Medellin, March 2016.

    Joe was a teenager when a paramilitary group approached him and his friends to become part of the Bloque Cacique Nutibara gang by starting to steal and kill. Joe and his friends refused because they didn’t like violence and were more interested in party and living a life like any other normal teenager. But that refuse came with a high price. Joe and his best friend were chased on motorbike and the gang shot them. Joe was hit twice, one bullet hit his neck and another bullet hit his abdomen leaving through the lower back, making him paraplegic. His friend died.
    At the time of the incident, Joe was trying to become a football player, so sports were always part of his life. When he understood that he would be on a wheel chair he took on sports to keep going with his life. He started to play basketball, then tennis and in both he was National Champion. It was through his wife, who also is a Paralympics athlete, that he became interested in weigh throwing and javelin. On Joe’s second tournament he became national champion, a title that he still holds today. During his progression on the sport he reached 4th in the world. Joe qualified to the Rio 2016 Paralympic games, but due to quota places he might not be able to go, something that he feels is quite unfair after so much work.
    Asked about his feeling for the responsible people that shot him, he says, “We must be peaceful, forgive, but never forget. I will never forget because everyday I have to sit on this chair”.

  • Joe Gonzalez Bettencourt, 38, tries to relax after some weight lifting exercises in the gymnasium at Atanasio Girardot Stadium, Medellin, March 2016.

    Joe was a teenager when a paramilitary group approached him and his friends to become part of the Bloque Cacique Nutibara gang by starting to steal and kill. Joe and his friends refused because they didn’t like violence and were more interested in party and living a life like any other normal teenager. But that refuse came with a high price. Joe and his best friend were chased on motorbike and the gang shot them. Joe was hit twice, one bullet hit his neck and another bullet hit his abdomen leaving through the lower back, making him paraplegic. His friend died.
    At the time of the incident, Joe was trying to become a football player, so sports were always part of his life. When he understood that he would be on a wheel chair he took on sports to keep going with his life. He started to play basketball, then tennis and in both he was National Champion. It was through his wife, who also is a Paralympics athlete, that he became interested in weigh throwing and javelin. On Joe’s second tournament he became national champion, a title that he still holds today. During his progression on the sport he reached 4th in the world. Joe qualified to the Rio 2016 Paralympic games, but due to quota places he might not be able to go, something that he feels is quite unfair after so much work.
    Asked about his feeling for the responsible people that shot him, he says, “We must be peaceful, forgive, but never forget. I will never forget because everyday I have to sit on this chair”.

  • Oscar Rios, 42, prepares to throws the ball to the basket during the training warm-up session of Antioquia’s team at Atanasio Girardot Stadium, Medellin, March 2016.

    After his military service Oscar started to work as a bodyguard for a public prosecutor, a time of great violence in Medellin, during the 1990’s when Pablo Escobar ran the city.
    On an assassination attempt of the public prosecutor, Oscar was shot seven times by Escobar’s assassins. As a result he lost the mobility of his legs and feet, becoming paraplegic.
    The adaptation to a new life was hard, but he decided that he had to separate the injury under his waist from his head, and to keep doing what he wanted. Oscar had always liked basketball, so he decided to dedicate himself to it. In 1998 he became part of Team Colombia on wheelchair basketball. During his successful career he was several time South American Champion, was with Colombia on the top ten teams at the 2014 World Championship in Korea and went to the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Unfortunately, this year Colombia missed the qualification for the Rio 2016 Paralympic, which was Oscar last opportunity to be back at an Olympics.
    He plans to retire soon and became a full-time basketball coach. Oscar believes that there is much talent in Colombia that needs to be fostered. When asked about the accident and his life on the wheelchair, Oscar says, “Before I was an arrogant person and didn’t have any love to give to my family. The accident was a blessing that made me a better, happier man and to appreciate more my life and family. If I was going to be born tomorrow, I wanted to be born on a wheelchair”.

  • Oscar Rios, 42, tries to block a throw during a practice match of Antioquia’s team at Atanasio Girardot Stadium, Medellin, March 2016.

    After his military service Oscar started to work as a bodyguard for a public prosecutor, a time of great violence in Medellin, during the 1990’s when Pablo Escobar ran the city.
    On an assassination attempt of the public prosecutor, Oscar was shot seven times by Escobar’s assassins. As a result he lost the mobility of his legs and feet, becoming paraplegic.
    The adaptation to a new life was hard, but he decided that he had to separate the injury under his waist from his head, and to keep doing what he wanted. Oscar had always liked basketball, so he decided to dedicate himself to it. In 1998 he became part of Team Colombia on wheelchair basketball. During his successful career he was several time South American Champion, was with Colombia on the top ten teams at the 2014 World Championship in Korea and went to the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Unfortunately, this year Colombia missed the qualification for the Rio 2016 Paralympic, which was Oscar last opportunity to be back at an Olympics.
    He plans to retire soon and became a full-time basketball coach. Oscar believes that there is much talent in Colombia that needs to be fostered. When asked about the accident and his life on the wheelchair, Oscar says, “Before I was an arrogant person and didn’t have any love to give to my family. The accident was a blessing that made me a better, happier man and to appreciate more my life and family. If I was going to be born tomorrow, I wanted to be born on a wheelchair”.

  • Oscar Rios, 42, does exercises with the help of his fitness coach on the Envigado Gymnasium, Medellin, March, 2016.

    After his military service Oscar started to work as a bodyguard for a public prosecutor, a time of great violence in Medellin, during the 1990’s when Pablo Escobar ran the city.
    On an assassination attempt of the public prosecutor, Oscar was shot seven times by Escobar’s assassins. As a result he lost the mobility of his legs and feet, becoming paraplegic.
    The adaptation to a new life was hard, but he decided that he had to separate the injury under his waist from his head, and to keep doing what he wanted. Oscar had always liked basketball, so he decided to dedicate himself to it. In 1998 he became part of Team Colombia on wheelchair basketball. During his successful career he was several time South American Champion, was with Colombia on the top ten teams at the 2014 World Championship in Korea and went to the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Unfortunately, this year Colombia missed the qualification for the Rio 2016 Paralympic, which was Oscar last opportunity to be back at an Olympics.
    He plans to retire soon and became a full-time basketball coach. Oscar believes that there is much talent in Colombia that needs to be fostered. When asked about the accident and his life on the wheelchair, Oscar says, “Before I was an arrogant person and didn’t have any love to give to my family. The accident was a blessing that made me a better, happier man and to appreciate more my life and family. If I was going to be born tomorrow, I wanted to be born on a wheelchair”.

  • Oscar Rios, 42, is leaving the Envigado Gymnasium after a fitness practice, Medellin, March 2016.

    After his military service Oscar started to work as a bodyguard for a public prosecutor, a time of great violence in Medellin, during the 1990’s when Pablo Escobar ran the city.
    On an assassination attempt of the public prosecutor, Oscar was shot seven times by Escobar’s assassins. As a result he lost the mobility of his legs and feet, becoming paraplegic.
    The adaptation to a new life was hard, but he decided that he had to separate the injury under his waist from his head, and to keep doing what he wanted. Oscar had always liked basketball, so he decided to dedicate himself to it. In 1998 he became part of Team Colombia on wheelchair basketball. During his successful career he was several time South American Champion, was with Colombia on the top ten teams at the 2014 World Championship in Korea and went to the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Unfortunately, this year Colombia missed the qualification for the Rio 2016 Paralympic, which was Oscar last opportunity to be back at an Olympics.
    He plans to retire soon and became a full-time basketball coach. Oscar believes that there is much talent in Colombia that needs to be fostered. When asked about the accident and his life on the wheelchair, Oscar says, “Before I was an arrogant person and didn’t have any love to give to my family. The accident was a blessing that made me a better, happier man and to appreciate more my life and family. If I was going to be born tomorrow, I wanted to be born on a wheelchair”.


Newsletter