Born on the 29th December 1975, Teresa Perales Fernandez enjoyed practicing Karate in her youth, but had never participated in swimming before a neurological disease affected her lower extremities at the age of 19.
But it was during a summer vacation where Terersa first started to familarise herself with the sport of swimming - "The water provided me with the freedom that sometimes you can lose through a disability. The best thing about swimming is that almost anyone can practice it. It also helps you to float and breathe in a co-ordinated manner. From the very beginning I realised I was quite good at it". Upon returning home, Teresa decided to join a swimming club. Catching the attention of one of the coaches, he considered Teresa's ability as a 'rough diamond that we need to polish' - and so her professional training began.
"When I started, I didn't have any idea what to do, much less without my mobility or feeling in my legs. But gradually, almost from the beginning, I noticed that I was good in the water. I tried doing a lap and noticed the time I achieved it in was very fast. I was then really lucky to fall into the hands of a great coach - and together we achieved great goals".
Attending her first World Championships in Spain, Teresa's immediately took to the competition aspect of the sport, "The competition, the versatility of the challenges and the atmosphere amongst the athletes - that's what I love the most. Plus the feeling of floating, trying to dominate a medium that's not natural for humans to be in". With numerous wins at the World, European and Paralympic Championships since - and setting 5 world records in the process - Teresa hasn't looked back since. "I always go into competitions with a lot of ambition. I want to win all the events that I participate in. I like to dream big and believe anything is possible".
With a degree in Physiotherapy, Teresa also enjoys encouraging the next generation of disabled athletes through motivational speaking and seminars - "Swimming is an excellent way of teaching values. I've always participated in sport, even before my injury. It's strengthened me a lot as a person and helped me to understand the difference between losing and winning. Losing is not daring to give up, whilst not momentarily getting what you're pursuing. But it's also taught me to dare to win - and to fight every day to become that little bit better. Anything is possible when you commit to seriously achieving it".