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Meet Antonio Flores: Malta’s Own Blade-Running Paralympian

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30-year old Antonio Flores was born with a condition called talipes equinovarus, better known as club foot. From when he was just a few months old, he was operated on countless times to try and correct his disability, but this just led to a flurry of issues which further limited his movement.

But Flores decided to play the cards he was dealt, and is now considered to be one of Malta’s leading Paralympians.

His inspirational journey to success is being supported by none other than Toyota Malta.

Back in 2018, Toyota rolled out a worldwide campaign titled ‘Start Your Impossible’ which is still ongoing, and its benefits can even be felt locally.

‘Start Your Impossible’ seeks to highlight the inspirational stories of everyday athletes, Olympians, and Paralympians in a bid to promote a sustainable and inclusive society.

In 2017, Flores took the leap and opted to have his foot amputated.

Despite all odds being stacked up against him, this Paralympian always worked to lead an active lifestyle – even before his amputation.

He recalls a particular event from his childhood which inspired him to pursue an athletic career:

“We had a school sports day and I took part in a short sprint,” Flores said, “even though the other students did not have a physical disability, I came in at third place.”

From that point, running became one of the most important things in his life.

Starting your impossible might not be easy, but Flores surely showed us that when we’re free to move, anything is possible.

Flores has always strived to confront and debunk the stereotypical ideal of what an athlete should look like – but Malta hasn’t made this particularly easy for him.

“Unfortunately in our country there isn’t yet enough knowledge and awareness about sports for those with physical disabilities,” Flores said.

In light of this, he started out training and competing against able-bodied athletes, which ended up disheartening the young athlete. But Flores’ struggles as a Maltese Paralympian don’t end there.

He believes that Malta doesn’t show adequate respect to the disabled, and this manifests itself in a number of ways; from able-bodied individuals taking up blue-badge parking spaces to being stared down by pedestrians. Naturally, these factors all contribute to an unfriendly environment which makes Flores feel like less of an athlete than his able-bodied counterparts.

Apart from that, Flores is faced with the day-to-day challenges of an amputee. He often has to limit himself to short walks and periods of regular resting to counter act the pain that the amputation often inflicts, leading to the scheduling of regular appointments with professional prosthetists.

Nonetheless, it isn’t all doom and gloom for the Maltese Paralympian.

With the launch of the Malta Paralympic Committee, it has become easier than ever for disabled athletes like Flores to actualise their dreams.

Through their global campaign ‘Start Your Impossible’, Toyota seeks to help such athletes achieve the full extent of their mobility and potential. For them, movement goes way beyond cars – it’s a human right.

“Running is something which helps me escape from the stress of everyday life”, Flores says. “It helps me push myself and reminds of the great things I can achieve with hard work.” As a result of his relentless perseverance, running has become an intrinsic part of his identity and personality.

You might have just learnt about Flores’ inspirational story, but his achievements in the Paralympics sphere go way back.

Flores represented Malta in the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing – an experience which he’ll “never forget”. But that’s not all. The Maltese Paralympian is looking into taking part in next year’s Paralympics in Tokyo – so mark it down in your calendars, and keep your eyes peeled for Malta’s very own blade-runner!

Photos: Daryl Cauchi

What are you waiting for? Start your impossible now!

 

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