María Espinoza: "Winning the gold at Puebla 2013 would be a dream"
María del Rosario Espinoza (La Brecha, Mexico, 29th of November 1987), became the first Mexican athlete to win 2 individual Olympic medals in two different editions of the Games at London 2012. Espinoza grabbed the Olympic glory by clinching the gold at Beijing 2008 and turned into a Mexican Taekwondo legend after taking the bronze at London 2012. A brilliant career which started to take off in 2007, when she became world champion in Beijing and Pan American champion in Rio de Janeiro.
Q. You arrived in London as the current Olympic champion. Did this help you intimidating your opponents? Did it put even more pressure on you?
A. None of them. I knew exactly what my objectives were and I felt as if I was competing in the Olympics for the first time.
Q. Your first match against Davin Sorn from Cambodia was already a very close fight. Do you think your experience was the key to win it?
A. I didn’t know Davin Sorn. My coach and myself had no idea about her combat style, so the strategy that he designed for the combat was based on her physical complexity. It finally worked, as I managed to score enough points to beat her thanks to that strategy.
Q. In the quarter-final you had to face Milica Mandic, who wasn’t one of the favourites for the title. However, she finally beat you by 6-4 after a polemical combat and ended up taking the gold medal. Do you think the referees should have given her the 3 points for that head kick? It finally decided the winner of the match…
A. My coach and myself had no other choice but to accept the decision of the referees. After they gave her the 3 points, I really had no time to overcome the score, so we simply had to hope that she would made it to the final. Then I’d be able to fight for the bronze.
Q. Had you studied Mandic? Was her combat style something unexpected for you?
A. We study most of the athletes I can face in a competition. In this case, I had already played Mandic before. It was certainly a close fight. We designed the strategy to beat her before the start of the match and I wasn’t surprised by her combat style.
Q. Once you lost the combat, you had to hope that she would became finalist to be able to fight for the bronze. How did you manage this situation? She had just beaten you…
A. It was a really tough moment for both my coach and myself, because our objective was to win the gold medal. I just felt happy for her because she was going to be able to fight for the gold and I also felt really happy for my team as we we’re still in the race for the bronze.
Q. The defeat against Mandic didn’t seem to affect you. In your first combat after losing to her you beat Crawley from Samoa by 13-0. Were you extra motivated after having seen yourself without the chance to fight for a medal?
A. Having the chance to fight for a second Olympic medal was a great motivation for me. It was the time to show everyone the work I had done with my coach. We promised each other that we were not going to miss this second chance we had been given and that the bronze medal had to be mine. I was really happy to win it because everyone in Mexico expected me to take at least the bronze.
Q. After beating Crawley, you had to fight for the bronze against Hernández from Cuba. It was like an Olympic final, but the loser wasn’t going to take a medal. How did you manage this situation?
A. My coach and myself both knew it was going to be a difficult match. We really studied how to face it and I think that I won thanks to my coach’s strategy. It really helped during the combat, although it would have been impossible to win without the previous work we had done.
Q. How does it feel to be the first woman to win 2 individual Olympic medals for Mexico in two different editions of the Games?
A. It is an immense pride for me to have given the Mexican people the chance to enjoy two great moments like those ones.
Q. Have you notice an increase in your popularity after London?
R. To be honest, I have no idea. Popularity and fame are two things which I don’t really care about. I just try to keep focused doing my job.
Q. The next World Championship will be held in Puebla, in your country. Are you confident on becoming world champion again at home?
A. Winning the gold at Puebla 2013 would be a dream. We’ll see if I can achieve it. The key for a success like that is the work that I’ll do with my coach during the preparation. Without this work I won’t be able to perform at my best when the time comes. I hope we both can achieve this dream together.
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