Venezuelan judoka Naomo Soazo – her country’s first and only Paralympic champion in any sport - has spoken of how becoming a mother has motivated her to continue her career once again.
Soazo will compete at the 2018 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Judo World Championships in Odivelas, Portugal, from 16-18 November.
Unlike in previous years, where she retired before returning for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Soazo has decided to stick with the sport.
“After the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games I felt that I still have conditions to compete again,” she said. “Additionally, I got married and had a baby named Santiago. Definitely he is my biggest motivation.”
As well as some major life changes, Soazo also switched to the up to 70kg in 2015 from the up to 63kg where she won gold at Beijing 2008.
The 29-year-old continued her podium success, winning bronze at the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto, Canada. Soazo also secured bronze in Rio the following year.
Naomi Soazo won bronze at Toronto 2015 in the women's up to 70kg
However despite not officially retiring, Soazo has been away from the tatami.
“In Paralympic periods it is difficult to share with our loved ones because we spent our time on training” she said. “That's why I have dedicated myself to being with them. Since 2016 I got married, I got pregnant, I gave birth to my son and I had to wait for the time needed to recover - all of that influenced being outside the tatami. I am greatly enjoying the growth of my son Santiago and living with him this beautiful stage.”
Now she is back in training for the upcoming Worlds in Odivelas, which will be her first competition since the 2016 Paralympics. Soazo knows that the women’s up to 70kg is a tough category, including Paralympic champion Lenia Ruvalcaba.
However she is still hopeful of a podium finish:
“They're all great and excellent judokas. That is one of the reasons that motivates me to move forward. Train hard to give always the best of me and get a good result. I always try to be positive and think that dreams can become true.”
Looking further ahead, Soazo has her sights fixed on an extra special Paralympic Games for judo and her family:
“It would be extraordinary to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. They will be amazing Games because they will take place in Japan, where Judo was born. And what would excite me the most is to win a medal and dedicate it to my son.”
About the 2018 IBSA Judo World Championships
Odivelas 2018 is expected to attract nearly 300 judoka from more than 30 countries. These include a huge number of world, regional and Paralympic champions.
Every match will be shown on IBSA Judo’s Facebook page
and IBSA’s YouTube channel
from 10am (CET) each day.
As well as the titles on offer, the competition is part of the qualification process for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Athletes will be able to secure points towards the world rankings, which will determine who will go to the Paralympics.
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