#Santiago2023Ambassadors: Robinson Méndez, 25 years leading Chileans Para athletes

With a long career that even allowed him to change the discipline, Robinson Méndez joined the Pan American and Parapan American team. “We have more support than before undoubtedly,” stated about the evolution of the sport in our country.

Robinson Méndez (October 18th, 1984) was just 12 years old when he received a lost bullet in his back, this injured his spinal cord and resulted in a quadriplegia. Back then, he was playing as a central defender in the minor leagues of Club Palestino and dreamt about becoming a soccer player. 

The love for sports did not stop, on the contrary, it got bigger and led him to reach new alternatives to keep his sporting career. That was how he began practicing wheelchair tennis, a discipline that he played for 19 years, becoming a referent of adapted sports in Chile.

27 years after his accident, he changed the sport that he was practicing. Now, thanks to his vast experience, he joined the Santiago 2023 Pan American and Parapan American Games team as an ambassador.

What does it mean to you to be an ambassador of the Games?
It is an honor to be an ambassador of this Games. I participated in five Parapan American Games and being a Santiago 2023 ambassador is something that will be in the memory of everybody. I will tell this to my children and grandchildren.

What do you think about the building of the Paralympic Sports Center?
It is a dream for me. I was one of the first Paralympic athletes competing in huge events out of our country and we did not have a physical location to train, for example, several machines were not adapted for us. Having the chance to see how much our country has grown with this new infrastructure, without a doubt will help us to keep improving and having great results in the future; not only personal results but also for the rest of the athletes that come.

What do you consider has changed in Para sports during the years, both at national and international level?
At a national level, I consider it has changed a lot, undoubtedly we have more support than before. When I started there were federations, I was in two Paralympic federations and currently, we have a Paralympic Committee. At Athens 2004, which was my first Paralympic Games, we were four athletes. In Rio, they were 16 and in Japan, they were 20. This means that we have more support, this way athletes can keep improving, this motivates many of them, it motivates children to keep practicing sports because they see us as an example.


After almost two decades dedicated to wheelchair tennis, a sport in which he achieved the eleventh place in the worldwide ranking, in 2016 Robinson Méndez decided to turn his career around by starting a new experience in Para canoe.

However, in this moment of his life, he does not just compete, but also from 2022 he assumed a more administrative and trainer role in Chilean sport. He started leading the Promesas Chile program from the Instituto Nacional de Deporte (IND) from where he monitors the development of future elite athletes and Para athletes in the country.

How has been your experience working on the Promesas Chile project?
It has been rewarding, from my experience, I can have another point of view of what an athlete really needs from the child and youth category. We have a great team formed by methodological technicians with whom we worry about the well-being of athletes, that they have more training hours and implementation. Years ago, those athletes that were in the child or youth category and are the 2nd or 3rd in Chile, did not have a place to train and this program helps them to have hours to do it, from both teams the interdisciplinary and the technician. It has been rewarding to be from the other side, which I was also in for so many years.

Are there athletes in the program who are positioned to be at Santiago 2023?
Many of them, we have a lot of athletes from different disciplines that are qualified or are on the verge of qualifying to the Games. We have a list of them, but I can’t show it yet because there are quite a few who are not qualified,  but there are several boys and girls who are already aiming for classification. 

What do you think is the future of the national sport?
I think that the work being done in the Santiago 2023 Corporation is really good. It is amazing that they are linking up with the different establishments through the Education Program. These Games are a festival, which is also unprecedented in our country and I think is the way to channel so that children will continue to have more access to sports in the future, especially with the rates of sedentary lifestyle we live with today. I think the plan is very good and we also, as ambassadors, take on a great part of the responsibility to tell our story and motivate them, just as I was motivated when I was a child by Iván Zamorano or later in tennis by "Chino" Ríos. We want them to also do sports, physical activity and, at some point, perhaps be a high-performance athlete.


Beyond the role that he can achieve as an ambassador, Robinson also has big expectations about his performance and training for Santiago 2023, in a season that will have the most important multisport festival of the Americas, a relevant milestone in Chilean sporting history. 

Which are your expectations for Santiago 2023?
On the sporting side, I hope to achieve the worldwide podium again. This year it will be developed in Germany, Duisburg. In this sense, I expect to improve the color of the medal since the last one that I won was the bronze. I would also like to obtain the gold medal again in the Pan American and the silver one that I achieved in kayaking.

What call would you make for those people who want to be Volunteers? 
I invite you to be part of this huge festival. You will have a great time, meet a lot of people and above all, you will help us to achieve medals for our country.


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