From Classroom Challenges to Athletic Triumph: Samuel Oliveira’s Road from GG2019 to Paris 2024

As the world gears up for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, all eyes are on Samuel Oliveira, a promising athlete hailing from São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo. On his way to making his Paralympic debut, Samuel’s journey to the global stage is a testament to resilience, determination, and unwavering support. 

My mother and sister always motivated me in athletics and didn’t allow me to give up. They always motivated me in athletics and didn’t allow me to give up, always cheering They vibrated with my achievements and were by my side pushing me to improve more and more. ” Samuel recalls fondly, reflecting on the pivotal role his family played in nurturing his athletic aspirations.  

Growing up in Mauá, São Paulo, Samuel’s journey to athletic stardom came along with a lot of childhood struggles due to his impairment in school. 

The school period certainly marked me a lot, I was very well known in the schools where I studied for my agitated behaviour, I had a lot of difficulties concentrating and school was not interesting to me, so I wanted to run and play with my classmates until I received the diagnosis I was labelled as a difficult and undisciplined student which earned me several complaints and many trips from my mother to the school board. At this time I was referred for treatment with psychologists.” It was during this time that Samuel received the diagnosis of an intellectual impairment.  

Shedding light on the challenges he faced, Samuel commented,   

Intellectual impairment affects my life in many ways. I need more time to learn new things and to perform tasks, I also have difficulty understanding complicated information and remembering important things, I always try to take notes and ask for help from my family in some situations. In training, I often forgot my coach’s instructions, but he has always been understanding with me and teaches me clearly so that I can understand.” 

Unfortunately, many people do not understand intellectual impairment, think it is laziness and sometimes even doubt our abilities. People must understand that we athletes with intellectual impairment also have our limitations and that being in sports is sometimes a great personal overcoming, it is where we can see that we are in fact capable,” he further added.  

Samuel was always motivated to play sports in childhood as he was tall and very energetic, he practised soccer, volleyball, swimming and basketball, but it was through his friend who was a discus thrower, that he got to know about athletics and fell in love with the sport.  

Athletics is my great passion and challenging my limits brings me a sense of freedom and personal improvement. I can see my progress with each test and see how much I’m able to accomplish my goals. How much I can achieve my goals on the track and in life, is to show especially to myself that even though I have my limitations due to my impairment, I can fly higher and higher. 

Samuel received his international eligibility with Virtus in May 2019, which opened doors for him at the international para-sports competitions. Reflecting on his international success, Samuel recalls his first medal, gold in the Men’s II1 Triple jump at the 2019 Virtus Global Games in Brisbane with particular fondness.  

It was my first international trip, and I never imagined representing my country in a global competition. It was there, at GG2019 that I realised that I could reach higher places and do something great.” 


Samuel Oliveira thrashing WR in T20 400m at Santiago 2023. Photo Credit: NPC Brazil

Samuel shattered the 400m WR at Santiago 2024 Parapan American Games, Santiago and mesmerised everyone. Samuel’s journey in athletics has been marked by perseverance and dedication. From battling injuries to overcoming the distance between his home and the track, Samuel’s determination knows no bounds.  

Paris this year will be the fulfilment of a great dream, I hope to surpass my mark and bring this achievement to Brazil,” he shares. 

As Samuel prepares to take on the world’s best in Paris, his message to aspiring athletes is one of hope and resilience.  

“Never give up, even if you encounter challenges along the way, don’t stop, because one day you will make your dreams come true.” 

With each stride on the track, Samuel Oliveira embodies the spirit of determination and perseverance, inspiring generations of athletes to chase their dreams against all odds. As Paris beckons, Samuel stands as a beacon of hope, ready to leave a legacy of overcoming and motivation for future runners to follow.  

Join Virtus’ #MakingInvisibleVISIBLE campaign in making Samuel’s journey Visible.


Intellectual impairment is an umbrella term to describe a vast and neuro-diverse group of people with varying types of cognitive impairments including intellectual disability, Down syndrome and autism. Having an intellectual impairment impacts how an athlete understands the rules of the sport, interacts with other players, and adjusts to different environments. They might find it difficult to manage reaction times, remember specific race or game strategies, retain focus for long period of time, or maintaining impulse control.