Sonia Rivero competing with her rifle at an event. / SUR

Sonia Rivero, a surprisingly sharp shooter

The Malaga athlete, who has a visual impairment, has a national gold, is a European silver medallist and has been competing in her first World Championships

MARINA RIVAS

Her case is a clear example that there aren't disabled people, but people with different abilities. But not many people could do the same as she can and obtain such good results. Sonia Rivero is a versatile woman. The 41-year-old can be found at the ONCE coupon stall in a Carrefour in Malaga, as well as at the top of an adaptive rifle shooting podium. It's a peculiar discipline that she came across by chance and in which she has accumulated regional and national titles, as well as European medals. "I started in 2001 through an ONCE workshop. My husband and I signed up out of curiosity and in the end we stayed for four years. If one of us won a championship, the other won the next one."

They both have reduced vision, although to different degrees. Rivero in particular has eleven dioptres per eye, hypermetropia, astigmatism, photophobia, congenital malformation of the eyes, albinism... "A complete package, as I say. I'm the first to take things with humour, because in the end it's adapt or die and these things have to be taken that way, because the world is not coming to an end," she said in a humourous tone that is common in her day-to-day life, in which she struggles to maintain normality.

Back on track

Sonia Rivero has won multiple national and European titles in 2022, and aims to one day become world champion

After a few years of success due to her marked talent, her biological clock asked her to stop in order to become a mother. However, once her children (now aged 20 and 19) became teenagers, she decided to return to her passion. And it was the best decision she could have made, because in this comeback she has continued to accumulate metals. This year alone she has been runner-up in the European Championships, as well as winning gold and silver in the Spanish Championships.

And many will rightly wonder how visually impaired people manage to practise a discipline such as this, in which this sense is crucial.

Competitors have to trust their ears, because each target has a specific light source that turns the target into a kind of sound target. The light coming from the target is picked up by the telescopic sight of the rifle, which converts it into different intensities of sound that reach competitors' helmets or headphones. It's pure technology with an extra helping hand thanks to guides like Antonio Cobo, who works with Sonia.

Regarding his role, Sonia explained that "we have a distance of ten metres with a target that converts light into sound and with opaque glasses that literally leave us blind". "The function of the guide," she added, "is to place you in your position, to see the score and the directionality of the shot, to see that you don't lose your balance, which can be overwhelming if, like me, you have residual vision." It's a millimetrically coordinated spectacle.

Like any other athlete

For many it could be a difficulty, but Sonia faces it as a challenge just like any other athlete. That's what she has been taught since she was a child: there are no obstacles, only small steps to take. "My parents have always brought me up as any other child. I went out into the street to play and I went to normal schools. 'Special' people are normal, and I have instilled this in my children and we have naturalised it so much that nothing surprises them," she said.

These days, her talent and perseverance have led her to live a dream. Sonia Rivero is in the United Arab Emirates, where she will made her debut this month in her first World Championship in rifle shooting. "I'm going without any prospects, because I want to be world champion, but nerves can be a bit tricky and you never know. However, she does know that she can and wants to be on the podium at the event.