Judoka Soazo Faces Toughest Competition of Career

Since winning gold in Beijing, Soazo has had to settle for silver and bronze at the last two world championships. In London, she hopes to wrestle her way back to the top of the podium. 31 May 2012
Naomi Soazo

Venezuela's Naomi Soazo celebrates victory at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.

ⒸLieven Coudenys

“It is very important that people know that in life there are no limits. Having a disability does not mean that we should limit ourselves.”

Four years ago, Naomi Soazo was the first Venezuelan to bring home a Paralympic gold in the -63kg Judo competition.

In the finals at Beijing 2008 she caught Spain’s Marta Arce off guard and quickly threw her to win gold after just three seconds.

It was a victory that the 42-year-old will never forget, and one that she hopes to repeat in London.

“I am very proud to have been able to bring this gold medal to Venezuela,” said Soazo. “I never thought that I would be the first to get it and it gave me a great thrill. I thank God and life to have had the opportunity to get it. It's a reward for years of hard work and dedication.”

Since Beijing 2008, she has competed in several prestigious international competitions. She won silver at the IBSA 2010 World Championships in Antalya, Turkey. After winning her first three rounds there, she lost to China’s Tong Zhou in the finals.

At the IBSA 2011 World Championships she had to settle for bronze, after being defeated in the third round by Brazil’s Danielle Bernades da Silva, who went on to win gold.

Soazo admits that the level of competition is very high, but she maintains that she is her own biggest rival.

“In Judo all opponents are tough, but I am training to beat them,” said Soazo, whose father, Humberto Soazo, coaches her and the rest of the team.

“It is amazing to have my dad as a coach.

“He demands our best when we are training. He knows and enjoys his job. He gives us the security and confidence that we need.”

In May, Soazo is headed to Japan to continue her training with teammates Marcos Tovar (-66kg), William Montero (+100kg) and Mauricio Briceño (-73kg).

“We are currently training very hard,” she said. “We are four athletes who will represent Venezuela. We are strengthening the weaknesses that we could have and polishing those skills that we already have.”

Though Soazo and her teammates are working hard, she says they have a lot of fun during training.

“In times of breaks one of us makes a joke or says something funny. We really have fun at training.”

Before London, the team will complete their final preparations in Spain.

As she works hard towards London 2012, tickets are selling fast, and the prospect of competing in a venue that will be completely sold out looks ever more likely.

“I believe that spectators should see the Paralympic Judo because they can see how we execute the techniques despite having a disability.

“They see that we can develop fully as good as conventional judokas. We can perform the techniques and movements perfectly.

“We can move and execute our techniques using other senses, such as: touch, audio and intuition.

“It is very important that people know that in life there are no limits. Having a disability does not mean that we should limit ourselves.”

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