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Judoka Martins: The pressure is off

Date: August 23, 2019

Category: Judo

By Victoria Donu and IBSA

Brazilian world champion Alana Martins is ready to take on Mexican Paralympic champion Lenia Ruvalcaba at the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games in Peru, adding to the latest chapter in their great rivalry with one year to go to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Martins has lost out on gold twice to Ruvalcaba in 2019, once at the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Judo Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan, and at the International Qualifier for Tokyo in Fort Wayne, USA. Those defeats added to the final of the Rio 2016 Paralympics where Martins once again settled for silver in the women's up to 70kg.

But the Brazilian is playing her own game with two competitions remaining for her this year – Lima 2019 and the IBSA Judo Grand Prix in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, from 23-24 September.

“We always meet in the finals, it shows that she [Ruvalcaba] is a great athlete. I've felt the pressure, but today I don't feel it anymore. I think I needed to get this pressure off to make a good fight against her. The Paralympic Qualifier’s final it was quite different. And I managed to achieve everything we had outlined for that fight. We have made new changes, we must always be changing. Today I am prepared to beat her and I am sure that this will happen in the next finals and I will come out with the gold medal in my chest.”

Martins in is Lima as one of her country’s most successful judoka. In 2018 the 24-year-old won the country’s first world title despite being in recovery from surgery.

“I achieved this victory, it was my goal, despite the obstacles in the way, but I had the focus and have faith to win this unprecedented gold. Whenever we talk about World Cups, and I hope there may be several in my career, this one will always be the most important, for all that I had to overcome to achieve my biggest goal.”

The Brazilian oozes a quiet determination and unshakeable self-belief. Despite the “painful” loss in Rio she speaks of an ongoing “evolution” between Baku and Fort Wayne and feels that “the result will come. At the exact moment, it will come.”

Worryingly for her competitors, with just one year to go until Tokyo 2020 Martins feels her judo is still a work in progress. She also knows that it is not just Ruvalcaba who she has to look over her shoulder at and is not preparing in isolation from all her competitors.

Uzbekistan’s Vasila Aliboeva, the silver medallist from the World Championships, and Russia’s Olga Zabrodskaya, a podium finisher from IBSA Judo Grand Prix are both firm contenders on the global circuit.

“They are great athletes with huge potential, that’s why they are always on the podium with me,” Martins said.

Describing herself as “extremely competitive” and as someone who does not even like to lose at rock-paper-scissors, Martins said: “Determination, focus, persistence, concentration are the keys to my success.

“Rio-2016 was a very painful loss. I came as a favorite, I knew I was able to be champion, but unfortunately it was not as I wanted. On the other hand, it made me grow as an athlete. Many things have changed, I managed to evolve a lot, I made decisions that made me grow after this defeat. And I am going to be gold.
“For sure, I am going to be gold in Tokyo and I know that I am perfectly able to achieve this goal.”
The Lima 2019 Parapan American Games open on 23 August with judo running for the following two days. The IBSA Judo Grand Prix in Tashkent then concludes the IBSA Judo calendar for 2019.

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