Santiago 2023’s Stars: Douglas Rocha, the Golden Para Swimmer

The Brazilian athlete achieved nine gold medals in these Games, six in individual events, setting as many continental records, and three in relays.

Sunday, November 26th, 2023.- Douglas Rocha Matera concluded his successful medal campaign at Santiago 2023 by dominating the 200 meters individual medley with a time of 2'24''19, surpassing his perennial rival, Colombian Daniel Giraldo, whom he defeated in six finals held at the Estadio Nacional’s Centro de Deportes Acuáticos. 

Born with retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary genetic mutation causing a gradual loss of vision, Douglas practiced Olympic swimming from a young age but stopped in 2009 due to the condition. However, after witnessing his brother Thomaz succeed at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Games, he decided to join para swimming. 

Among his achievements at Santiago 2023, Rocha conquered the 200 meters individual medley final in the SM13 category, setting a new Parapan American record in the SM12 category with a time of 2'24''19 (the previous record belonged to Giraldo from Lima 2019 with 2'26''95). 

Before arriving at Santiago 2023, the Para athlete born in Rio de Janeiro had other notable achievements in his sports career. He won gold in the 100 meters butterfly and the 4x100 meters relay medley and a bronze medal in the 100 meters backstroke at the Manchester World Championships in 2023. 

Douglas Rocha also secured gold in the 4x100 meters freestyle relay at the 2022 Madeira Island World Championships (Portugal) and a silver medal in the mixed 4x100 meters freestyle relay, earning 49 points at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. 

At Santiago 2023, Rocha shone with nine gold medals, six in individual events, and three in team events: 100 meters backstroke S12, 100 meters butterfly S12, 100 meters freestyle S12, 50 meters freestyle S13, 400 meters freestyle S13, 200 meters individual medley SM13, 4x100 meters medley relay 49 points mixed, 4x100 meters medley relay 34 points mixed, and 4x100 meters freestyle relay 49 points mixed. 

Written by Ernesto Bustos B; translated by Rocio Rojas / Santiago 2023 via Photosport 
Photo by Javier Vergara / Santiago 2023 via Photosport