Chilean Para table tennis stood out at the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games, getting 3 of the 10 medals won by the national delegation, being the most successful sport after Para swimming. Among the winners was Tamara Leonelli from Temuco, winner of class 5, reserved for people in wheelchairs with normal muscle function of the torso.
In the gold medal match she defeated the Colombian Nelly Sanchez in three sets: 11-7, 11-3 and a thrilling 12-10. “It’s been the most beautiful moment of my career, I can take it to other aspects of my life and it has clearly been the most significant. The gold medal, everything that was Lima and the qualification to Tokyo is practically my whole career,” she said.
Despite being an individual achievement, the tennis player mentioned all her staff at the medal ceremony, along with the anthem and raising the flag as rituals. “The emotion one experiences is indescribable, it was the result of the work that we do with our coaching staff. We, the athletes, are only the tip of the iceberg of everything that lies below, which is the people who help you improve, train you and who are also part of this,” she stated.
Currently her team consists of her coach Cristián Carrasco, physical trainer Marco Kokaly and two professionals from the Centro de Alto Rendimiento (CAR in Spanish): psychologist Claudia Larenas and nutritionist Juan Tejo. With all this support, she faced the biggest competition of her young career: the 2021 Paralympic Games.
"Tokyo taught me a lot. Despite not having won a medal, the fact of having been there, of having qualified, enriched my soul. It was very meaningful, I had a great time, despite the circumstances of the pandemic, which cut short our preparation, everything was very positive for me," she said, although she was eliminated in the first round.
Tamara Leonelli doing the 'V' of victory. (Picture: Comunicaciones COPACHI).
COMMITMENT TO HER PEERS IN HER ROLE AS A LEADER
In December 2021, at only 24 years old, Tamara Leonelli was chosen as president of the Comisión de Deportistas Paralímpicos, a position she holds to this day. “What we do is to support athletes in their preparation, on trips or in their training place, we help if they have any inconvenience and provide what's needed to facilitate their activities. I am there practically 24/7, because it’s a job that has no rest days and if an athlete is abroad and contacts me at 3 or 4 a.m. I will answer them anyway,” she remarked.
The position as a leader opened up future perspectives for her: “Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about going into politics, I am very interested in it. It’s an opportunity that I don’t rule out".
SANTIAGO 2023: “WE ARE AMBITIOUS BUT CAUTIOUS AT THE SAME TIME”
The current world number 14 in class 5 of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) ranking, will seek to maintain the title achieved in Lima 2019.
“We are giving everything for what is going to be Santiago, but now comes the anxiety, which is a pleasure we hadn’t felt before. Let's see what happens, everything is defined in a day, in a moment. We want to be ambitious but cautious at the same time,” she concluded.
Full name: Tamara Isabel Leonelli Leonelli
Date and place of birth: June 5th, 1997 (26 years old), Temuco
Sport: Para tennis table, class 5
2021, Tokyo Paralympic Games: first round in singles class 5
2019, Lima Parapan American Games: gold in singles class 5
2017, Costa Rica Pan American Championships: gold in singles class 5
2015, Toronto Parapan American Games: bronze in singles class 5
COMMUNICATIONS SANTIAGO 2023
Mascot Instagram account: @fiusantiago2023
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