Sport

‘Love of the heart counts most’

Brazil's most successful Paralympian shares how family and faith have motivated him

Daniel Dias
September 6, 2012 - Daniel Dias celebrates after winning the 50m Backstroke - S5 final at the London Paralympic Games. Daniel with his 50m Butterfly S5 gold medal

Daniel Dias not only won six gold medals at the London Paralympics, he did so having only taken up swimming in 2004. His inspiration came from swimmer Clodoaldo Silva, whose medal count he passed to become Brazil’s most successful Paralympian.

He added to the nine medals he won in Beijing in 2008, 19 gold medals at the Parapan American Games and 11 World Championship gold medals. He excited fans by telling the media that he hoped to be at his peak for the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics in 2016.

Daniel said winning six golds at London had special meaning after losing his grandmother this year.

Family has always been important to Daniel, who has said that his parents are his foundation, as “they are always with me in difficulty or joy.”

Yet even above family, talent and sheer effort, Daniel says that the greatest thing has enabled him to succeed is a deep knowledge of God’s love.

“The love of God was fundamental to me as I grew up in a Christian home,” Daniel says in a video interview with Beyond the Ultimate.

“I always had it (God’s love) as my parents always tried to pass it onto me.

Daniel does not see his lack of hands or feet as a problem

“I was living with people and seeing that when we have faith in God, and go in search of our dreams, we can see the impossible happen because our God is the God of the impossible.”

Due to his parents’ example, Daniel says that he developed a great faith in Jesus Christ, and there came a day when, he says, “I gave my life to Him” and trusted in Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.

“The big difference” following this decision, according to Daniel, is that he now recognises that God is sovereign over everything, and this is true whether people acknowledge it or not.

“Anyone can win a medal and live a life as a medal holder,” he explains, “but God knows what He does and it is He who crowns us.”

Daniel Dias with medal
Daniel with his 50m Butterfly S5 gold medal

Daniel was born with no hands or feet, but has not let that stop him from becoming a remarkable swimmer who shines joy in the face of adversity.

“So many ask, ‘Why do you always smile?’” he said.

“We know that whoever has Jesus in his life is happy. So my reason for joy is this; we know that he who believes in God is a winner. In sports we are like a tool. We are a tool in God’s hands and sports is the means of showing the love of God and what He can do in our lives and in the lives of those that believe in Him.

“Anyone could win nine medals, anyone could be the best in the world, but the questions is, ‘why me?’ It is God who has a purpose for everything.”

Daniel Dias competing
Daniel Dias competes in the 200m freestyle S5 heats in London, before he also won the final

Daniel does not see his lack of hands or feet as a problem.

“There is a song my mother always played for me, which says that we are a masterpiece of God. That music has always impacted me, because God sees our inner self, our heart, and not what is on the outside. Of course, people can sometimes look and say something is missing, some part, let’s say, physically on me, but many people may be missing something spiritually as well.

“I believe this is the core issue, to believe that God sees how we are as a whole and sees what we feel for Him. The love we have for Him is what counts most. Then we don’t become discouraged because we don’t have an arm or a leg. God does not see this, God sees our hearts.

“He sees us completely, what is inside. It is a great joy to see how God is with us,” he concludes.

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