By NAN Sports Editor
News Americas, RIO, Brazil, Weds. Sept. 14, 2016: While the Rio 2016 Olympics had the spotlight shone brightly on Olympians there, the tough athletes who have overcome many obstacles to participate in the 2016 Paralympics are not getting as bright a spotlight. Yet many are shining despite the odds, including three Caribbean athletes who have already claimed gold for their country of birth. Meet the three:
Omara Durand is visually impaired but this Cuban-born sprinter, who competes in T12 and T13 events, has so far won two gold medals for her country. Durand won gold in the women’s 100-m race for her country. The 24-year-old Santiago-de-Cuba resident also set a new world record at 11.40. She also won gold in the Women’s 200m – T12 event and could claim a third on Sat. Sept. 17, 2016 in the 400-m T12.
“I am super happy, so excited. Having another medal for me and my country is so enjoyable. I want to win because there is rivalry, but the most important thing for me is to enjoy the race because the track is for all of us,” said Durand, who dedicated her gold medal to her teammate Yunidis Castillo, who pulled up injured in Sunday’s 100m T47 final.
Dalidaivis Rodriguez also of Cuba won the third gold for her country and the region. Rodriguez, who is visually impaired as well, took the gold in the Women -63 kg judo event on September 9, 2016 after she beat Ukrainian Iryna Husieva in the final at the Carioca Arena 3 in Rio de Janeiro. Rodriguez, winner of the same event at London 2012, beat Husieva with an ippon. Husieva had beaten Rodriguez the last time they met in the 2014 World Championships.
“I have a good collection of medals now,” said Rodriguez. “I have a very special place in my house where I keep all the prizes I have won. I lost to her in and I prepared really hard. I wanted to fight her again. This is revenge.”
Trinidad and Tobago’s Akeem Stewart, 24, broke his own javelin world record twice to clinch gold in the F43 javelin event at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Stewart, who is visually impaired, landed the spear 57.23 metres at the Olympic Stadium with his very first throw to better his previous best of 54.77m in last year’s International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar. T&T’s Sport Minister Darryl Smith hailed Stewart’s golden arm.
“We are tremendously proud of Akeem [Stewart], becoming the first man to medal at the  Paralympic Games for Trinidad and Tobago and doing so with record throws,” said Smith, via a press release. “Akeem is a gifted athlete and worthy ambassador for Paralympic sport. He has distinguished himself among the world’s best in the throwing events, and in doing so, positions Trinidad and Tobago as a force to be reckoned with. We congratulate Akeem on his achievement and look forward to what he will produce in his favored discus event next week.”
The Caribbean region’s medal count at the Games stands at 11 as of September 13, 2016. Cuba leads with 10 medals while Trinidad & Tobago has one.
Latin America currently has 62 medals to date. Brazil leads with a whopping 43 while Mexico has 10, Colombia 8 and Argentina and Venezuela 4 each.
China leads the world’s medal counts with 147 followed by Great Britain with 75 and Ukraine with 72. The US is at fourth on the world’s medals count table with 60.