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DeSilva-Andrade inspired by Rio’s passion

Incredible experience: DeSilva-Andrade throws a ball during her boccia match against Israel’s Levi at the Barra Olympic Park (Photograph supplied by www.islandstats.com)

Yushae DeSilva-Andrade has been blown away by the passion and support of the fans at the Paralympic Games in Rio which she believes reflects the growing popularity of the multi-sport event.

The Bermudian boccia player is proud of her performances at her first Paralympics and said her unforgettable experiences in the “Marvellous City" had whetted her appetite for the Toyko Games in 2020.

A furious ticket-selling campaign has helped the Games become the second-most attended in Paralympic history behind London in 2012, making a mockery of the laundry list of concerns that plagued the build-up of the event.

Talk of slow ticket sales and venues being closed were just some of the issues facing organisers, although DeSilva-Andrade, 23, said those fears could not have been further from the truth.

“I’ve absolutely loved it here and it’s been an amazing experience,” she said.

“To me it seems as though the Paralympics has grown a lot and I think that’s pretty cool.

“There were a whole lot of people at my event [at the Barra Olympic Park] and the support has been great.

“It’s been really inspiring just being here.”

The wheelchair athlete was born with cerebral palsy and was only introduced to boccia — a precision ball game related to bowls — at WindReach Bermuda in Warwick four years ago.

She may not have won either of her mixed individual matches in Rio de Janeiro, losing 7-0 to Jeong Min Sohn, of South Korea, and drawing 2-2 against Israel’s Nadav Schlomo Levi, but insists she has no regrets about her showing.

“I came out here looking to enjoy myself and that’s exactly what I’ve done,” DeSilva-Andrade said.

“I’m extremely happy with both of my games because I played my game and nobody else’s. I have no regrets and I gave it my all.

“When I started four years ago I didn’t think I’d be playing at the Paralympics — it’s pretty awesome. Toyko is definitely something I would love to stick around for.”

For the past nine months DeSilva-Andrade has trained for five or six days a week in preparation for Rio and said she must improve all aspects of her game to be more competitive should she qualify for Toyko.

“I need to get a bit more direction in my arm and then I’ll be good,” she said. “I have to learn to control where I throw the ball on the floor because I throw overhand.”

Understandably nervous ahead of her Paralympic debut, DeSilva-Andrade reached out to her team-mate Jessica Lewis who helped ease her anxieties with some comforting words of wisdom.

“It’s been awesome having another team-mate here for support,” said DeSilva-Andrade, who will be cheering on Lewis, Bermuda’s first Paralympian, in her T53 800 metres heat at the Olympic Stadium tomorrow.

“Jessica has been here before so she gets the nerves and anxieties.

“She told me not to worry about anything as this was my first Paralympics and that it was going to be a learning experience for me.”