Fernández at the 2015 wheelchair dance championships in Rome. Fernández at the 2015 wheelchair dance championships in Rome. ds photo dance sport

Yermaín Fernández, wheelchair dancer

Wheelchair-bound youth has become international dance champion

He grew up the victim of bullying and discrimination and fought depression. But today, Yermaín Fernández Angeles is happily married, the father of one and an international dance champion.

Yet he remains confined to a wheelchair.

Fernández was born with several congenital conditions — arthrogryposis, clubfoot and a dislocated hip — that prevented him from ever being able to walk.

He grew up in a wheelchair, believing he would not be able to raise a family, have a job or be a productive member of society.

“That period was difficult. I almost never went to parties,and when I did I stayed sitting at a table, watching what other people did and thinking ‘why am I like this?'” he told the newspaper Milenio in an interview.

Fortunately for him he came in contact with the non-governmental organization Vida Independiente, or Independent Life, where he received physical and psychological support that enabled him to break free and become an independent wheelchair user, even in the narrow streets of Ecatepec, State of México.

He soon learned about the activities and competitions held by the national wheelchair dancing team. Now he looks back on 10 years as an active member.

Through his participation in the national team, Fernández has realized all the dreams he once believed were unattainable: he has married and is raising a daughter and enjoys a successful career as a hip-hop dance instructor and choreographer for quinceañeras, the traditional birthday parties held for 15-year-old girls.

Fernandez’ hard years of depression and learning to cope with less than optimal conditions for wheelchair users were rewarded in Rome in November 2015 when he won gold at the Wheelchair Dance Sport World Championship in the freestyle category.

Mexico competes more than any other Latin American country in international wheelchair dancing matches. Seventeen of the 32 states have a team and all are striving to have their discipline recognized as artistic expression.

Wheelchair dancers compete in three categories — freestyle, standard and Latin — and in three different modes — solo, combined and duo. In the combined mode one dance partner is in a wheelchair and the other is not, while duo means both dancers are in a wheelchair.

The national dancing team has its sights on another world championship come October, but before reaching that stage they must compete in China.

Although it gets support from the Mexican Federation of Wheelchair Sports, the team still needs funds for the trip and is looking for sponsors, plus extra financing for Fernández, who needs a new wheelchair.

Source: Milenio (sp)

Fernández dances salsa-hop in his wheelchair.

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