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Interview with Carolina Costa, “The bronze of Tokyo? I am already thinking of Paris 2024”

We chatted with Carolina Costa, the athlete from Messina who won the bronze in the +70 kg classes B1-B2-B3 assembled at the recent Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Carolina Costa conquered the bronze in the +70 kg classes B1-B2-B3 assembled at Tokyo Paralympics 2020. The first Olympic medal for the Sicilian judoka, but also a medal historical who hadn’t been in judo for 29 years.

Daughter of the Sicilian judo master Franco Costa and the former Olympic wrestling athlete Katarzyna Juszczak, Carolina Costa he started his career as an Under-23 judoka in a very promising way.

In 2016, the blue judoka was 22 years old and was diagnosed with keratoconus (a degenerative disease which if taken at a young age can lead to progressive blindness). As a Paralympic athlete, he confirms the excellent results of his beginnings and, at an international level, wins a bronze medal at the world championships and a gold medal at the European championships who give her the pass for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

After the triumph in Tokyo 2020, Carolina Costa she returned to Messina, in his city, where he relentlessly resumed taking care of the students in his own gym “Judo Franco Costa”.

Bronze medal in judo after twenty-nine years: almost a month has passed. How is he experiencing it?

“I didn’t stop for a moment when I got back from Tokyo. A few nights ago I stopped to think about what I have really achieved. It is something great. And it is true that September 29 will be a month, but it is as if my victory on the Tokyo mat was yesterday ”.

He dedicated the medal to his father and family. His father was a judoka, his mother practiced wrestling. It is not wrong to say that she is a “daughter of art”.

“I dedicated the medal to my father who hasn’t been around for 15 years. My dad passed away when I became an agonist because in judo at the age of twelve you enter the category of agonists.

Due to an illness, my father abandoned me when I was developing judo. There where the leap in quality is made. But I never gave up. I tried to go on and fight and win for him.

I come from a judoka family. My mom is also a fighter. He participated in two Olympics: one in Barcelona in 1992 in the national team of Poland and in Athens in 2004 with the fight. My dad is a great teacher even if he didn’t do the Olympics, but he did the Judo Academy which is quite prestigious. Behind a centenary gymnasium “.

What advice did your parents give you as a sport?

“My dad the first thing he taught me is humility in this sport and in life in general. Humility is at the base. Become champions, but always humble. That pays off. After his death, my father gave me the strength and constancy that sport and life ask of you. After twenty-seven years (because it can be said that I have been practicing judo since birth) I managed to bring home what an athlete wants: an Olympic medal ”.

Her life changes at 22 when she is diagnosed with keratoconus. How has the approach to judo changed on a mental and physical level?

“Everyone thinks there are changes, not really. In the beginning it can change how you react to the disease. Keratoconus which is a corneal disease in old age does not have many solutions other than a corneal transplant. After the first two years of illness, I have come to terms with it. Judo was a life saver. With or without disabilities, in practice judo is the same thing. There is only one difference: you start immediately with the sockets because you need a first contact.

For the rest nothing has changed: the sacrifices are the same. My dream has always remained to win an Olympics which then turned into a Paralympics. Nothing has changed, on the contrary I have even more desire to do, to win and to show that even with a disability you can achieve everything ”.

What would you recommend to those who would like to practice judo?

Judo is for everyone. The word judo is very big: it encompasses many aspects. In my gym that I have in Messina, called Judo Franco Costa in honor of my father, I take children who are three years old because judo teaches everything, even to know how to move, walk and coordination. It is the basis of everything. If you have a passion for this sport, you are starting a path as a competitor. Regardless of the competitive spirit, I invite everyone to practice this sport which can be a relief valve “.

How important was media attention to you?

“We need to work on the media because I noticed that there is little visibility with the Paralympics. They are important because they let the rest of the world discover our stories, who we are and invite those who keep themselves hidden to come out and emerge thanks to our stories. We can be a cue or strength for someone. The more we emerge, the more sport makes itself felt, the more the media talk about it, the more you can have a better world made up of sport ”.

You have been called superheroes… does she feel like a superhero?

“I read they said that the Olympians are heroes and the Paralympic superheroes. If I can entice someone to play sports or be a cue, then yes I am a superhero. If I can do good, then yes ”.

Can you tell me who Carolina is outside the mat?

“Outside the tatami I’m very little (ed smiles). I have a gym where I teach children that they are my passion. Maybe teaching is my father’s gift. So my day is quite rich.

I have always enjoyed drawing. I have a diploma in advertising graphics but due to the sight problem I could not continue. Discovering the disease, I dedicated myself to myself and my morning workouts. In the afternoon I dedicate all of myself to others and to children. I try to be there for others in sport. I am looking for a degree in sports science with the university. At the age of 27, his whole life is dedicated to sport that comes first. My home is my gym ”.

Look, are there any fears you have?

“It will seem trivial, but the fear I have is the one with myself. I get carried away by anxieties, by the fear of not making it. From this point of view, I am weak and I need someone like my coach to tell me that I can do it, that I am strong and that I have trained well. I need security ”.

And the pandemic?

“It affected a lot on a mental level. I was afraid of getting infected. It destroyed me a bit because an infection was enough and I had gambled all things. I avoided anything. I only did home gym and home gym. From a physical point of view, I have always had the opportunity to train, except when there was the first quarantine ”.

Is being Sicilian an added value for you?

“I love my city (editor’s note, Carolina Costa is from Messina) and they remember me now that I have won the medal. For me, being Sicilian is something I have inside. It is a pride. I would like to be considered more because I have given a lot to Sicily and Messina with my sporting results. I was paid little and nothing. I continue to love my city and my region. When I win, I also win for the people of Messina and for all Sicilians ”.

What are the future projects?

“The future projects are the World Championships next year and from there the climb to Paris 2024 will start again because it will be the race that will bring qualification points for the next Paralympics. From now on, everything is reset ”.

It seems to me that Paris 2024 is a nice yes!

“Yes! As I’ve always said, we added one in Tokyo but we took one off in Paris. Three years fly “.

Sandy Sciuto

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