Yuan Yanping has made it to No. 39 in the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Top 50 Moments after capturing her third successive Paralympic gold medal in the women’s +70kg at Rio 2016.
Few were doubtful that the seemingly invincible Chinese judoka would seal another title, even with strong rivals such as Belarus’ world No.1 Arina Kachan, Turkey’s European champion Mesme Tasbag and Uzbekistan’s Khaytjon Alimova seeking to dethrone her.
Yuan even made her achievement look effortless, beating all of her rivals by ippon. She subsequently defeated Tasbag, Brazil’s Deanne Silva de Almeida and Alimova to defend the Paralympic title once more.
“I would like to think I am invincible, but I am not,” said Yuan.
“Prior to every competition, I always study my rivals and how their judo style is. I am constantly reminding myself that every competitor has their unique strength so I need to remain focused and face each combat as a new tough challenge.”
What made this achievement even more significant is that Yuan had some obstacles to overcome in the lead-up to Rio 2016 that made the 40-year-old question her presence at Latin America’s first Paralympics.
“I was hesitant about my ability and had little faith in myself due to my age and an old injury I had. I doubted that I could top the podium at a Paralympic Games again,” she said.
“But I pushed myself forward and made a huge effort. This new achievement has proven to me that I will always have the potential to win as long as I continue persevering.”
The friendly atmosphere experienced in Rio was one of the highlights of the Paralympic Games and one of the best memories Yuan will forever cherish.
“I remember the crowd, which was always cheerful and full of enthusiasm, and the volunteers, who were willing to help all the athletes. They all gave me a really good impression and I left with fond memories,” she said.
“In the semi-final, I fought against a Brazilian judoka but the crowd still cheered for me full of affection after I won. That was touching.”
Yuan, who two years ago also won the IBSA Judo World Championships in Colorado Springs, USA, has a way to keep herself motivated, even after winning much more than many judokas could dream of.
“Once the medal presentation is over, I tell myself that this mission is done and I need to make a fresh start all over again,” she said.
“After winning gold in Beijing, China, in 2008, I only thought of focusing on my immediate competitions and not of sealing a second Paralympic medal in London, Great Britain, in 2012. Same after the 2012 Paralympics. I prefer to go step by step.
“Many things can happen from now until the next Paralympic Games start. Now I want to maintain my competitive level, put all my effort into training and face every major competition in the upcoming years. Then I will see if I take part in Tokyo 2020 or not!”
To find out more about the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2016, visit the dedicated page on the IPC’s website.