Athletes With Disabilities Show Gym-Goers Why They Should Look Past Appearances

Tall. Buff. Agile.

That’s how your standard gym rat would likely describe a perfect body.

But at least one group of athletes in Brazil is reconsidering what defines true strength after unexpectedly meeting a crew of Paralympians.

Last month, the organizers behind the 2016 Paralympics placed hidden cameras at gyms across Rio de Janeiro and invited several professional athletes who are competing next year to work out. The Paralympics are open to athletes with disabilities and host more than 500 events, including swimming, wheelchair fencing and triathlons.

At first, the gym members appeared skeptical when they saw Luciano Dantas, who has dwarfism, Lucia Teixeira, who is visually impaired, and Vinicius Rodrigues, an amputee, weave their way through the various facilities.

But after Rodrigues cranked up the treadmill to 25 kilometers per hour (15 miles per hour) and Teixeira started taking down her opponents in judo, onlookers went from wary to blown away.

“At first, they didn’t want to fight her,” one of the members said of how they were reluctant to compete with someone who’s visually impaired. “And then at the end, they REALLY didn’t want to fight her.”

The goal of the PSA, according to the ad group that produced the spot, was to urge people, especially those who are consumed by appearances, to look beneath the surface.

“More than simply a social experiment, this action is proof that when you watch these athletes up close, you really will be amazed," Felix del Valle, creative director at Ogilvy Brasil, said in a statement.