PARALYMPICS / Newsmakers

Husband, rope help blind runner reach Paralympc podium

Updated: 2008-09-10 15:42


BEIJING-- At the blocks, Adria Santos stands with her husband Rafael waiting for the start gun to go. Tying the couple is an 18-inch rope tether.

Both know they are connected in more ways than a literal tie.

Being blind since birth never stopped Adria from looking toward a future. With her husband acting as her eyes, Adria won a bronze medal in the T11 women's 100m dash at the Paralympic Games on Tuesday and is already looking to her seventh Paralympics in London.

Hand in hand, the couple left the track for the press conference. On the way, the lanky husband with the milk complexion gently stroked the curly brown hair of the petite, shiny-skinned wife.

"My guide is my husband. We have been married for five years and trained together for three years," said Adira.

Before the press conference started, reporters asked Adria to recount their romance. Adria looked shy, her face flushing. Rafael took her hand and pressed her head against his broad chest. "Let me tell you," he said.

Rafael, a pole vault athlete, knew Adria from newspapers that reported her Paralympic experiences. Through a mutual friend, they met and fell in love. Rafael moved to the city where Adria lives and they walked down the aisle in 2003. Two years later, Rafael retired from competitive pole vaulting to become Adria's guide since. Last year, a baby girl was born.

The 34-year-old Adria has been running for 21 years. She said she had been living in a dark world before Rafael became a beacon of her life.

"He is not only my guide in the competition but also in my life. We are always hand in hand in our lives and it's our fate to be together, both in competitions and life."

After he seated his wife and led her hand to where the microphone was, Rafael left the podium and sat in a far corner, watching an LCD television which carried live feed of the press conference.

When asked why he stayed out of the spotlight, Rafael said: "The Paralympics is for the disabled athletes. The glory belongs to my wife, not me. She deserves the limelight."

Chinese winning runners with guides

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