The 21-year-old from Marbella, whose hands and feet were amputated due to meningitis, finished second in the ISA World Para-Surfing Championship in California
Two shades of blue form the fine line of the horizon between sea and sky. Sarah Almagro, who is just 21 years old, surfs the waves that soar over the line, lifting it almost high enough to touch the clouds above, like she did at the ISA World Para-Surfing Championship in Pismo Beach, California has. The color of her silver medal shimmers as she picks it up with her prosthesis to show the camera with a big smile on her face: “I wanted to win, I won’t pretend I didn’t, but it did does not matter. To me, that silver still feels like gold, ”she says.
Without losing her smile, she tells the story of her life of developing meningitis at the age of 18 and having her hands and feet amputated, but she never lost the desire to continue the body surfing that she had practiced in Marbella since she was five.
“My current trainer heard that I used to go surfing from his beach. When he found out everything about my illness and what had happened, he told me he would get me back in the water, ”she says.
Her coach is a big boost for Sarah in the truest sense of the word, because he is the one with whom she takes her first steps into the sea from the shore: I have no palms to push myself alone. I always need help getting in the water and for everything once I’m in the water, ”she explains.
With the help of her trainer and her own determination, she went from the beaches of Malaga to those of California, where, in addition to the competition, she mingled with surfers of different abilities, where a blind man helps an amputee get dressed. Prosthesis, on a beach that is perfectly adapted to their needs and where everything is like in the American surf films: “The cars were huge and it was older people with white beards who drove Harley Davidsons. I loved it. It was the first time I was in the United States, ”she says.
She will also always remember that she was chosen to represent Spain, read the athletes’ oath and take part in the opening parade of their first World Cup. “It was a great honor for me. We were a little naughty in the parade too. It was supposed to be a girl pushing my wheelchair, but in the end I went and pushed the chair in front of me, ”she says.
Despite so many highlights, one of her best moments was when she surfed with Robben: “When my trainer was in the water with me when he wanted to pick me up, I started surfing on my own and suddenly I lifted my head and saw a seal. I screamed with excitement. I freaked out with joy, ”she says.
The flight home was also an idea. When Sarah arrived in Madrid, her suitcase with all her belongings, including the medal, had landed in Helsinki, Finland. “We had two connections between Los Angeles and Madrid and we missed one. My suitcase containing the medal and the laptop I used to do my university thesis while in Los Angeles was lost. I had to do all the work all over again because it was close to the deadline, ”she says between laughter and relief to finally be reunited with her case and to have her belongings at home.
Sarah is studying law at the University of Malaga. At first she wanted to be a tax inspector, but now she’s trying to change direction and do something with sports to combine her two professions. Not only has she made a name for herself as a world champion in adapted surfing, but she also has a strong presence on social media, although she doesn’t like the term “influencer”. “I don’t know, I think that’s considered to be someone posting photos and that’s it. I try to be visible, to convey a normality in what may not be normal. I try to do it with humor because I think that’s the best response, ”she says.
The twinkle in their eyes, like the sun on the waves, suggests that the path to silver medal at a world championship, law school, and immersion in their projects were at their peak, but meningitis still brings shadows with it. “I had a really bad time and I was very, very scared. I used to think I was useless for the rest of my life, ”she says.
Today, with her silver medal in hand, she has a different perspective and speaks of the future, of what she will do and what she hopes for: “I’ve been thinking about a book for some time, but you have to have the time and want to relive the past, and when you’ve experienced so much fear, it’s not easy, ”she says.
Whether or not she is writing her life story, she definitely knows that her experiences need to be told so that others have an example that can help them. “I would love to hold conferences to get the message across that anyone can handle any situation. You don’t have to be Sarah or anyone special to overcome adversity. Anyone can do it, ”she says.