Desiree Vila Bargiela, an exchange student from Spain spending the spring 2022 semester at SUNY Oswego, tells of turning tragedy into triumph on an international stage, including at the Tokyo Paralympics, as well as how she is enjoying her time as part of the Oswego campus community.

I did acrobatic gymnastics. I'm a very competitive person, so I train a lot and try to be better every day. So I got to be on the Spanish team. I was Spanish champion back in 2012, '13, and '14. I went to many international competitions, and I got to the world championship in 2014. That was in Paris, and that was like, wow, a huge achievement for me.

And then I had an injury. In gymnastics, it's very common to fall doing an acrobatic or something like that because it's a risky sport. I was doing something on the trampoline, and then just, yeah, I don't know. I just fell, and I broke my leg. So I broke the two main bones. But the thing was that also my artery clogged, and that was something they didn't realize at the moment. So there was no blood running in my leg.

So I stayed there (in the hospital) for the night. And then the next day, I was getting my surgery, and they realized there was no blood running, so my leg was already dead. They had to amputate my leg.

I was a very active person, and I couldn't imagine myself without sports. So that was a tough moment for me. I just wanted to go back to sports because I love sports, but I wasn't thinking about competing. I wasn't mentally prepared for that. I wanted to learn how to run again because it had been one year since the last time that I could run.

So I wanted to run, and I had to get a blade for that because you cannot run with the walking prosthetic leg. So my orthopedist gave me the blade, and I just put it on, and I was very scared because it's very different, the technique and everything. And I remember I could just run for 10 meters, and I would fall or I would get tired.

The Paralympics, it was a dream come true. I would say it was the best moment of my life. I was very confident, I was in a good shape, and I just was living my dream. So it was awesome.

So I do 100 meters and long jump, but from after Paralympic Games, I specialize in long jump. I ended up sixth in the Paralympic Games.

So here, I'm a full-time student, and that's something I really like because I don't have the opportunity to do that in Spain. I'm learning a lot here. And also, because my major is a social study, we have a lot of debate. We can give our own opinion.

I really like it here. I like the way that college works. I feel like my teachers are very prepared, and they take into account that I am from Spain and my English might not be as good as the other students' English. Yeah, I feel like I'm enjoying it.

It was very important for me to be able to train here because otherwise, I couldn't come. My coach, Kevin Joyce, he's very nice, and he's very professional, and he all the time tries to get me to explain my feelings because some of the exercises that I'm doing here are very different from the ones that I do back in Spain.

I will learn a lot, and I think it's going to be worth it. And then I'm going to go back to Spain and have a lot of knowledge and try to apply it into my sports.