Antonis Aresti talks to Sigmalive English
Paralympic silver medalist Antonis Aresti speaks to Sigmalive English on how he dedicated his life to sports, his struggles early on in life, and his future plans.
Sigmalive English met up with Aresti at the Tsirio Stadium on Monday to talk about his stellar career and how he overcame difficult circumstances to put Cyprus on the Paralympic map once more.
Aresti recently booked his place for his third Paralympic games, taking place in Rio de Janeiro this summer. We asked the 32-year-old how was he preparing for this event, and how he feels to represent Cyprus again in such a big event. Aresti said: “After the Paralympic games in London where we came fourth twice, it was a difficult time for me. I had to undergo two surgeries, I suffered a couple of injuries such as a fractured tailbone which kept me out for two-and-a-half years. However I got back up and went back to training in April and successfully qualified for the World Championships despite being injured. And then I got my opportunity in Qatar and I took it - qualifying for the Paralympic games in Rio.”
The 32-year-old from Limassol has set a huge benchmark for other athletes in his division with his successes over the years however, when asked if he feels the pressure to constantly improve himself and raise the bar, Arestis replied: “Of course! When you are an athlete it is in your nature to surpass yourself and take yourself to the limit, this is my goal for this year. Rio will be the third Paralympic games I will compete in and most probably my last, as I am 32. However, my goal," he added, "is to achieve a personal record."
Despite having coped with a serious injury to his arm at the age of two, Aresti has been able to achhoeve his dreams - always fighting to be the best he could. And it's a positive attittude, he claims, that was the key to his success.
“I hurt myself when I was two years old, but I grew up in a way that didn't discourage me from participating in sport and playing with other kids," he reveals. "I feel that I did not have any disadvantages in life, only advantages. I have always kept myself positive, and if there was something I felt caused me difficulties because of my arm, I would work extra hard in order to accomplish it. That's just in my nature. I always believe that it's much better to attempt to do things in life rather than not do things - because when you have a setback, there is always a way to do something even if there is a negative factor in the way.”
However, according to Aresti, the relevant Cypriot governing bodies do not sponsor him in a way that allows the sport to flourish: other sports, he feels, often take most of the spotlight while those that could make a difference have been set aside. But Aresti continues to believe that there is always a solution, and would like to thank the people who gave him a chance to continue to live the dream.
Despite the negative factors invovled, Aresti has said that he is impressed with the progress the sport has made over the past five years, admitting that more and more “open-minded people” have entered the sport, cooperating with sporting governing bodies and supporting the idea of an increase in sporting facilities and stronger foundations for a better future in the sport.
Aresti has decided that, when his career comes to a close, he will give back to the sport that not only made him a champion, but that he has loved since childhood, creating a state-of-the-art facility which would enable children to be educated and train to become professional athletes. All facilties, of course, would be accessible to those with disabilities.
Finally, the Paralympic champion would like to send a message to all ahead of the Christmas period. “I would like everyone to be able do what they love to do, no matter the time of the year. Also, the most important thing is for everyone to love each other and not hate others. It is that time of the year when people come closer and I believe in a better future for this country especially after everything it's been through. I believe 2016 will be a much better year for Cyprus.”