Lionel Morales, an elite athlete from Lanzarote and Rio 2016 Paralympian, is preparing for his second Games, which he faces with a great track record behind him and 51 years under his belt
He is a born fighter; before losing his left leg, he was runner-up in the Spanish Lightweight Boxing Championship. His ultra-competitive gene plus his open, positive and sociable personality prevented him from throwing in the towel. So, Lionel Morales kept training and working hard and has become an elite athlete who proudly carries the Lanzarote flag with him all over the world.
He reached his half-century last February and has notched up a spectacular career racing in triathlons. At the Rio 2016 Paralympics, he finished seventh and obtained a diploma. He was runner-up in the World Triathlon 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021, the latter in Abu Dhabi. He was Duathlon World Champion in 2016; European Triathlon Runner-up in 2021, placed third in 2018 and 2019; and is twelve times Spanish Champion.
Morales says he ‘feels good, older but stronger and more confident. I was dealing with an injury the year I went to Rio, but I feel better prepared for Paris 2024. I still have a fair few more Federation competitions and events to do before I go, though.’ At 51, he’ll be the oldest member of the Spanish team.
‘I feel great love from my people in Lanzarote,’ he says. ‘I am very grateful for all the support I receive every day.’ He seems unaware of just how inspiring he is to many people. The epitome of effort, self-improvement and courage. ‘It’s hard to fully take it in.’ he says. ‘But I do hear it, and everyone’s encouragement keeps me going on tough days. You know, when training alone, in the cold and rain with no end in sight, and I feel utterly shattered.’ He adds, ‘Sometimes, when competing, that responsibility can weigh heavy, like a backpack full of stones, which adds to the huge demands I make on myself, like a place on the podium at the very least.’
Before Paris, and time permitting, he hopes to participate in local competitions such as the OceanLava, Desafío8ªIsla and/or the Travesía del Río Swim, which are not just valuable touchstones for him as competitions but also his way of supporting sports in Lanzarote.
‘It’s not easy,’ Morales explains. ‘But I am very disciplined and tenacious. I don’t give up. And for as long as I feel fit and competitive, I will continue to get out there and battle it out. The day I see youngsters overtaking me, I’ll look for something else to compete in… even poker!’