Paralympic Games
7-18 September

Naomi Soazo ends retirement for Rio 2016 dream

The Venezuelan judoka, a Beijing 2008 champion, is risking her all for Rio 2016. 09 Oct 2014
Naomi Soazo

Naomi Soazo shouts to the crowd after a win.

ⒸGetty Images
By Hernan Goldzycher | for the IPC

Venezuelan judoka Naomi Soazo has made a dramatic return from retirement and injury, in a bid to qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

At the beginning of 2014, Naomi retired from high level sport after her personal doctor told her that her vision had been degenerating faster than expected because of the physical contact inherent to judo.

“It was a tough moment, very difficult to deal with,” she said.

Nevertheless, her desire to continue competing persisted, so she chose another sport: cycling. “I have always liked cycling and I didn’t want to retire from sport so early,” Soazo said.

However, after some weeks, the Beijing 2008 Paralympic gold medallist reached the conclusion that was not her destiny and she had to continue in judo.

“Judo is my life, my passion, and that is why I have decided to make my comeback after being retired for some months,” she said.

“My family and friends have always supported me. They encourage me all the time and have suggested that I should not give up.”

Soazo’s return to competitive judo has not been easy, with the 25-year-old spending the whole season out of the tatamis due to a series of injuries. First, she had a grade-two right ankle sprain before suffering an elongation of the internal ligaments in her right knee.

Luckily, she is now much better, but her injuries meant she missed the most important event of the year in September – the 2014 IBSA Judo World Championships, in Colorado Springs, USA.

“This year has been extremely difficult for me,” she said. “But I am still optimistic about qualifying for the Rio Paralympics.

“In 2015, I will do my best to get the necessary points to qualify for Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.”

If Soazo was to complete this amazing recovery and compete in Rio it will be her third Paralympic Games. But her dream does not end there, because she also wants to gain her second Paralympic medal, in the women’s -63kg class.

“My main motivation is the huge desire I have to represent my country,” she said.

“I want to show all the people that dreams have no limits and that people who have an impairment can also be useful to their country. Besides, I want to encourage young kids to start practising a sport.

“The gold medal in Beijing was special. I was only 19 years old when I won it and I felt great joy and pride. It would be a dream come true to have those sensations again, in Rio.”

Spanish version available here.