China’s reigning women’s up to 48kg Paralympic champion Li Liqing has explained the reasons for a drop in form since winning gold at Rio 2016: getting an education and the ‘unfamiliar tactics’ of some new opponents.
After claiming both the world and Paralympic titles in 2014 and 2016 in two astonishing debuts, Li experienced a drop in form. Although she has finished on the podium several times, a gold medal of any kind from various events has eluded her including an Asian Championships in 2019.
Li puts it down to a shift in her focus and a deepening of the field:
“Since 2016, I have put part of my energy into my study. I studied Chinese massage and computer for the visually impaired in a school that is dedicated for people with disabilities.
There are many accidental reasons why I didn’t become a champion in many competitions. Since 2018, there have been some new opponents. Their unfamiliar tactics are the challenges I was facing.”
Asked if this might effect her chances heading into Tokyo 2020 where she will defend her maiden titles, Li said that the coronavirus pandemic has given her some valuable extra time.
“Of course, in the 2021 Tokyo Paralympic Games, I will do my best! The postponement of this event means that I have more time to prepare for it and welcome it in the best condition!”
Credit: Julie Laramie
At the moment though, the Chinese squad have been given some time-off. At the start of the outbreak they were kept isolated at their training centre. But when the lockdown was lifted in China and the Paralympics were postponed, they were sent home to their families.
Li said she was ‘having a relaxed time’ but thinks she will be able to ttrain again at her local club soon.
“Once I can start training, I should be able to practice in more technical actions, adjust new tactics and improve myself as soon as possible. I hope my performance can be improved to a higher level.”
When she returns to the mat, Li will have to assess the threat of several new athletes.
Chinese Taipei’s Kai Lin Lee beat Li on her way to the Asian title in 2019. In addition, France’s Sandrine Martinet – the Paralympic champion from the over 52kg – has moved down to the lower weight category.
Li has won one of three fights against the Frenchwoman whilst her record against Lee is 2:1.
“Of course, I will take every player seriously and respect every game,” Li concluded.
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games have been re-scheduled to 24 August -5 September 2021.
The International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Judo qualification process is currently on hold with the cancellation of two Grand Prix in Great Britain and Azerbaijan. IBSA Judo is currently working with the International Paralympic Committee on a revised pathway for Tokyo 2020.