Keula Nidreia Pereira Semedo did not win gold at the Paralympic Games but the Cape Verde athlete may have received something even better.
After finishing the T11 200m qualifying heat in fourth on Thursday, the visually impaired sprinter missed out on a place in the semifinals but got an unexpected surprise as her guide – and partner – got down one knee to propose on the track.
The magical moment came just minutes after the end of the race with other athletes gathered around cheering the happy couple.
She said yes, of course.
“I really have no words. There are so many emotions all together. Just the fact of being here at the Paralympic Games, I hardly felt my legs actually because I was so nervous,” Semedo told reporters.
“Now, with the proposal, there are just too many emotions going on right now. I don’t have words to explain how I feel at this moment.
“I always had the dream of getting married but we hadn’t planned anything so far. We haven’t spoken about it and I wasn’t expecting it at all.”
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‘Our parents will go crazy’
Visually impaired runners often have a guide to help them around the track and are connected by a tether.
It seems Semedo and her guide Manuel Antonio Vaz da Veiga are closer than most.
Semedo spends most of her time living in Portugal and has listed her now-fiancee as one of her biggest inspirations.
Despite competing since 2005, Tokyo 2020 was Semedo’s first Games, but she says she’s now motivated to go again – with her soon-to-be-husband by her side.
“I’m not sure if any of my relatives already knew because I did not know. But I am sure our parents will go crazy. They will like it,” the 32-year-old added.
“I am sure my mom will be very happy because she always wanted me to get married.”
Vaz da Veiga said he thought the time was right after the couple had spent 11 years together in a relationship and couldn’t think of a better place to ask the question.
“Since her name was put on the list to come to Tokyo, in the end of July,” he said, when asked when he came up with the plan.
“My two brothers and a friend of mine already knew of this. I am sure they will be very happy. My family will be thrilled. They will all love the idea.”