Catarina Guimaraes talks about life with cerebral palsy, being a student athlete, her journey to IWAS and her love of going fast.
Catarina Guimaraes has a serious need for speed. The 14-year-old loves to go fast, whether its running, riding or even talking. She’s always been athletic and most of the sports she tried involved running, such as soccer. Naturally, her love of running going fast led her to try out track as a competitive sport.
“I’ve always loved being fast,” Guimaraes says. “Whenever I do things, it has to be fast. I love how you can feel the wind in your face [when you run fast] and it just blows your hair back. It feels exhilarating, you have this moment where you get to wipe everything else away, any problems you have they’re just gone because you are in that moment on the track.”
Guimaraes was born with cerebral palsy that affects the left side of her body. She has a great muscle difference from her right leg to her left. Guimaraes explains her muscles on her left leg as if they were a rubber band, where she could stretch as much as she wanted to, but they’ll always go back to square one. Growing up, she had to wear a lot of casts and orthopedic inserts. She can still remember the pain of the casts and how she would get scratches all over her legs from sleeping with night casts.
“I remember walking into class one day and I had these casts on both of my legs. I had to wear these special shoes because I couldn’t really walk without them because there was a big cast on my foot,” Guimaraes says. “I remember being excited for the weekend, and I know everyone is excited for the weekend because that means no school, but I wasn’t excited about not having school – I was excited because at the end of the week I would get a break from those casts. Sometimes I’d try to get away with taking them off because I didn’t like it at all. It [the cast] was really uncomfortable and not fun. I remember blisters all over my feet because of the inserts, so I couldn’t go running because it hurt.”
These days, Guimaraes isn’t as dependent on casts as she used to be. Twice a year she gets measured to see if she needs to wear casts again. The outcome depends on her growth and stretching. Sports have helped her need for casts by keeping her strong and active. However, she still requires special arch support training shoes and inserts in her everyday shoes.
Guimaraes love of going fast has led her a spot on Team USA for the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports (IWAS) Games this summer.
“[Being on Team USA] is like I’m finally accomplishing something,” she says. “I’ve been doing a lot of stuff and I haven’t really been getting anywhere, but to finally be on Team USA and be able to have this opportunity to go to the IWAS Games is like I’m finally getting somewhere and I’m taking steps so I can achieve something and actually make a difference somewhere.”
Guimaraes lives a busy and dedicated lifestyle. She wakes up at 5 a.m. every morning to do her stationary workouts before school starts and she follows a workout plan her track coach has given her. She also has track practice four days a week. On top of all the training she does, she maintains a good grade average at school.
“Being a student athlete is a lot of balance because you have to focus on homework, but if I have a lot of homework I think when am I going to have time to do my workouts, when am I going to have time to go to the track, or when am I going to have time to hang out with my friends,” she says. “So, it’s a lot about balance and sometimes the balance involves waking up at 5 a.m. so you can get everything done.”
Being active has made a tremendous difference in Guimaraes’ life. She has met some of her best friends, traveled around the world and has stayed as healthy as she can. For anyone with a disability who wants to try sports, Guimaraes wants them to know that it may be hard, but you must keep trying.
“If you’re trying sports, you have to remember you won’t be able to do everything,” she says. “Some things are going to come easier and some things will get harder, but you just have to keep on trying. That’s the most important part. You have to keep trying to get better, and as long as you are trying your best that’s always going to be good because you are doing your best.”