Ruth Beitia talks to the Olympic weightlifting medalist in London, Beijing and Rio
Your resume is imposing. She has participated in three Games and has obtained a medal of each metal: bronze in Beijing ‘2008, gold in London’2012 and silver in Rio’ 2016. In the first two appointments she was fifth and fourth, respectively, but the doping of the weightlifters that preceded her, detected after further analysis years later, made her champion in 2012 and runner-up in 2008. She has won four medals in World Cups (gold in 2017 and 2018, silver in 2019 and bronze in 2013) and another twelve in Europeans. It’s Lydia Valentín (Ponferrada, February 10, 1985).
– With eleven years you know weightlifting. What made you fall in love with this sport?
– It was in my town, Camponaraya. The coach saw that I had aptitudes, physique, that I liked sports and competing with boys and girls. And he had character. He came up to me and asked if I wanted to practice weightlifting. Why not? I said to myself.
– At the age of fifteen you leave your town and go to Madrid to the High Performance Center. How was that experience so young?
– It was a dream. When I saw those who went to the national team compete and prepared Europeans, World Cups, games … I was left speechless and I was dying to be with them.
– And your family?
– She was a bit worried because I was going from a town of 3,500 inhabitants to a big city. It was hard for my parents and my sisters because in the end we were very close and we did not want to miss those moments of living childhood together … But it was my dream, I was with the best. I was happy.
– I imagine that the support of the family was fundamental.
– My family looked at that girl who had a dream, who did something that motivated her since she was eleven … She parked the feeling of protection and thought: “let’s let her fly.” They were not selfish and I was able to fulfill my dream. I am very grateful to them.
– I was talking a few days ago with the karateka Sandra Sánchez who is ungrateful that every four years sports are watched on television and viewers do not know how they work. How would you explain weightlifting?
– A person who does not like it is complicated, because he will only see someone who is very strong and lifts a lot of weight. But weightlifting is so much more. It is clear that whoever lifts the most weight wins, but you have to polish your technique every day, you have to have a great physical and mental capacity to focus, to launch all the messages to your body so that it makes the gesture at a certain speed and, Above all, so as not to be afraid of putting yourself under so much weight.
Obligatory change of category
– You have changed category. Your successes have been at 75 kilos and now you compete at 87.
– It is a mandatory decision. It is not my category. I couldn’t compete in the European championship due to gastroenteritis. It was the last test to qualify. I would have had no problems. I had to go to compete in the Ibero-American in Colombia in 87kilos to directly access the Olympic classification in this category. In addition, the international federation changed the classification system two months before the Games, then they changed again … They have driven us all quite crazy. And in the 76kgs category there are athletes with a much lower level than me, even without having gone to the European Championship. There has been a time of resignation and I have had some problems.
– So what can we dream of in Tokyo?
– I have had some health problems this year, so I go without any expectations. I arrive with a maturity that has nothing to do with the Lydia of 2008, 2012 or even 2016. And I am aware that I am going to compete in a category with girls who weigh much more than me. I am trying to gain weight but it is not that easy. A nutritionist takes it all for me, but I will not weigh 87kg. I will weigh just enough to give the category. Therefore I want to enjoy and that people enjoy me watching me compete.
– Gold in London, silver in Beijing, bronze in Rio. In London you couldn’t get to the top of the podium because of the scourge of doping. What do you say to that athlete in quotes who stole that privilege from you?
– I wouldn’t say anything to the athlete. The scourge has been there, in the sport of weightlifting. In fact, they have given the international federation quite a bit of attention, and it seems right to me because they do what they want. It is a very corrupt sport due to doping issues. I would say to world and international weightlifting that there is only one sport, clean and in which you have to respect certain values. The other is not sport nor are they athletes.
“Talent must be valued and if there are now more men, maybe in Paris 2024 there are more women”
– Excellent! Another controversial issue … This year 320 Spanish athletes are going to the Games. 41% are women. It is the lowest percentage of women since Athens. What do you think it is due to?
– I think that the talent of people must be valued and if now men are having more than women, perhaps for Paris 2024 it is 60% women and 40% men. I don’t like to differentiate.
– What is Lydia Valentin dreaming of? Who is your source of inspiration?
– I’m a pretty simple person. I admire those who try to be better every day as a person and in their dedication, who want to move forward, who have a dream and go on and on until they achieve it. I admire people who never give up, who fight.
«The pandemic has taught me that we are fragile, that life changes from one day to the next. And to have a lot of patience »
– And what would you say to that girl who wants to be Lydia Valentin?
– Enjoy, because if you enjoy, what you do is not a sacrifice. Make it persistent and work. I have had to work 20 years to be a world champion. But in this society everything is immediacy and if I am not a champion already, it seems that I have no talent. You have to work like little ants.
“We are fragile”
– How have you lived the pandemic and what have you learned from it?
– That we are fragile and that life changes from one day to the next. And to be very patient. I was lucky to be with my boy, who is my physical trainer, and we have a gym at home. You trained, yes, without knowing if I was going to go to the European Championship, if the Games were going to be held …
– What will not be missing in the suitcase that you will take to the Games?
– The boots, the mesh, the Hello Kitty belt that then I always cover it because there can be no marks. And my bandages. I’m happy like this.
– An eraser to erase something from your past or a pencil to continue writing the story of your life?
– The pencil. What has happened has served to be who I am.
– Weightlifting is not understood without Lydia Valentín, badminton without Carolina Marín, swimming without Mireia Belmonte. Is it necessary to give the media a slap on the wrist so that they do more echo of women’s sport?
– Yes!. A resounding yes (laughs). I have come out because I have been a world champion, like all these athletes you just mentioned, among which I include you. It is important that they promote women’s sport and that they follow you all the way to the top. And keep you on the covers. If not, people don’t find out.