Mariana Zuniga about to become Chile’s first Paralympic archer

Mariana Zuniga during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

“I cried a lot at the opening ceremony,” Mariana Zuniga Varela said in the middle of her last practice session ahead of the start of competition at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

With her first scoring arrow, she will secure herself a place in the history of the sport.

No archer from Chile had ever qualified for the Paralympics before. And Mariana, aged only 19, is the first. She’ll compete in the compound women’s open competition here in Japan.

“It means a lot because it’s the first time an athlete of Chile takes part in the Paralympic Games. I’m so proud and so happy to be here and make history,” she said excited in-between her practice ends.

Mariana won her quota earlier in the year, in March in Monterrey, Mexico. She took gold at that continental qualifier. She was somewhat close to qualifying already two years ago during the worlds in ’s-Hertogenbosch – but finished just outside of the tickets.

Now she is here, shooting in the Yumenoshima Park.

“I think it’s a beautiful time and I’m enjoying this experience,” the 19-year-old said.

“I think it’s been the best experience not only in sport but in my whole life. It was amazing to see the whole [opening ceremony] show and I enjoyed it a lot.”

So what will make these Games a success? Nothing complicated.

“My goal here is to make my job and routine the best I can do. And to repeat the things I’ve been practising at training,” she said. “I will be happy only if I do that.”

The archery competitions at these Paralympic Games begin with qualification on Friday 27 August 2021. Mariana shoots in the morning – and, no matter the outcome, it’ll be a historic result.