Taking Home the Gold

Winning a medal in karate taught Santiago that a dream come true can be just the beginning
Sunshine Foundation

Taking Home the Gold

Thursday, May 1, 2014

When Santiago was born with cerebral palsy, his doctors told his parents that they didn’t know if he would ever be able to walk. To encourage him to move, his dad, Juan, worked with his physiotherapist to introduce karate movements into his physical therapy. By the age of four, Santiago could take steps without any help.

As Santiago grew older, he loved karate and wanted to practice regularly. Since his condition means he’s not able to kick, he used a modified form of the sport.

Juan describes him as a social kid who enjoys competing in karate tournaments. But, he became frustrated when he realized there was no category that was right for him and he’d never win a medal. “He’d been competing for two years and he had never gotten a medal that he earned,” says Juan. “It wasn’t fair.”

The family had heard about Sunshine through Santiago’s sledge hockey team; so, they called, wondering if Sunshine could help Santiago’s dream come true.

When the US Open Karate Tournament in Las Vegas held its first karate category for people with disabilities, Sunshine made all the arrangements to ensure Santiago was there to compete. And Santiago’s perseverance gave him the opportunity to earn his gold medal. At the age of eleven, Santiago became the first person to win a gold medal in an official karate category for people with disabilities.



“Santiago slept with his medal for a week after,” says Juan. “It means pride. Accomplishment. He wants to keep going and he knows he has to work hard.”