11 January 2022, by Cornelia Tautenhahn

Mentally and socially: This is what sport can do

Paralympic athlete Jorge Pina is committed to getting more people into sport, regardless of social and physical status. How sport has determined his life and what training can do.  

Sportsman, Paralympic athlete, role model: Jorge Pina stands for what sport can achieve - in his life and in the lives of others. With his foundation, he is committed to psychological and social well-being through sport and leisure activities for young people.

Jorge Pina was already passionate about sport at a young age. After rugby, judo and football, boxing became his passion. Following the loss of 90% of his vision, he was forced to give up professional boxing. Instead, he turned his resilience and passion into the pursuit of athletics, participating in the Paralympic Games in 2008, 2012, and 2016 as a marathon runner.

We spoke to him about the importance of sport in his life, the mental benefits of exercise, his work at the foundation and inclusion in the fitness industry.


FIBO: What does sport mean to you?

Jorge Pina: Sport for me is a way of life, it's a way for me to feel good physically and mentally. A way to transcend every day and prepare myself for life's obstacles.

Has the role of sport in your life changed over time - especially after losing your sight?

Pina: Yes, it has. Sport has transformed my life over time. After losing my sight it brought me new challenges, but sport allowed me to continue fighting for important values such as inclusion, harmony and peace.


Today you are involved in your own foundation for psychological and social well-being through sport. Where do you see your biggest challenges here?

Pina:  The biggest challenge is to create physical, human and monetary conditions that allow sporting activities to be fully developed.
It is important to have a structure that can include everyone in training, regardless of their physical, social or mental status. For example, a blind athlete to practice athletics needs a guide athlete to accompany him and it is not always easy to find. 

We need adapted equipment and human resources that can respond to the needs of the Association and it is not always easy to get enough support for these needs.


How can the fitness industry support?

Pina:  The fitness industry can help with some equipment and donations. We receive money from projects that we apply for (sometimes we win but sometimes not) and we also have support from the state, but they cannot respond to all of our needs.
Until now, the Association has tried to have activities which tend to be free, because it works with children and young people, mostly from disadvantaged families. But right now, we have an academy, with fixed expenses and that needs sustainability to be able to function.

How important is the mental side of physical activity?

Pina:  The mental part is very important in physical activity. I would even say that is the most important part. If we want results and if we want to be healthy we need our body and mind to be interconnected.

Our mind commands our body and if it is sick it will not be able to command the body and obviously the person will not feel healthy. If our mind is strong, it will transmit this energy to the body, which will respond with strength to face obstacles.


What do you think it takes to make sport more inclusive?

Pina:  People need to be more open and more available to help others. It is necessary for people to look inside themselves and realize that they can be happy helping others.
People often think only about their well-being and look only at their small family and social circle, but it is important that they look outside and realize that not all of us have the same opportunities, but any of us can create opportunities to those who cannot do it alone.

For people to be more open, more disclosure is needed. More support is needed and more structures need to be created to receive athletes with special needs.

Do you go to the gym to work out? Where do you see here room for improvement for inclusion?

Pina:  Yes, I can train in a gym. However, it is not always easy.
On the one hand, machines need to be adapted to multiple disabilities and on the other hand, human resources are needed that can support athletes with disabilities in their training and improve over time. In this sense it is necessary that companies remember these athletes when they idealize their machines and in relation to human resources it is important that in their formation they learn to deal with this type of athletes.


What are your further plans for the future?

Pina:  Increase the number of practitioners of physical activity, regardless of their physical, social or mental status. Have training open for everyone, whether young or old, with or without disabilities. The Jorge Pina Academy was a space designed to respond to these needs and now we hope to be able to meet the expectations.