Miriam Blasco and Almudena Muñoz: the judokas who changed the history of Spanish sport

Desktop code Image for mobile, amp and app Mobile code AMP code Barcelona APP code. July 31, 1992. At 4:30 p.m., the judo competition began in the -56 kg category at the Palau Sant Jordi. No one knew it at the time, but four matches would change the history of Spanish sport. A 28-year-old Miriam Blasco dressed in a white kimono and a belt engraved with the name of her trainer, Sergio Cardell, who had died just three weeks earlier in a motorcycle accident, put her feet on the tatami. First, the Korean Sun-Yon Chung fell, then the Japanese Chiyori Tateno, the Cuban Driulis González and, finally, already in the final, the British Kim Fairbrother. A crowded pavilion with thousands of throats chanted the name of Miriam under the attentive and emotional gaze of the King and Queen of Spain before what was getting closer to happening. A leg sweep translated into yuko (5 points then) earned the Valladolid woman to get above and withstand the attacks of Fairbrother, who had achieved a koka (3 points) and was desperately seeking to get above. Three… two… one… End. The marker ended four agonizing minutes. Miriam was already an Olympic champion. The Palau Sant Jordi exploded with excitement and Blasco burst into tears lying on the tatami between the emotion of victory and the memory of her coach. She had just made history by becoming the first Spanish judoka to win an Olympic medal precisely on the first date that this discipline made its debut in the Games in the women’s category. But her deed went further. Miriam became at that time the first Spanish athlete to win a gold medal in a JJ.OO. of summer -months before Blanca Fernández Ochoa did it in the Albertville Winter Games-. Miriam Blasco, after winning the final against Kim Fairbrother on July 31, 1992. RTVE Double in 24 hours The woman from Valladolid opened a medal table that had not been opened until then, the women’s, but it did not stop there. Just 24 hours later, the feat was repeated. In the same pavilion, on the same tatami and in the same discipline, but with the signature of Almudena Muñoz in the -52kg category. The Valencian was then 23 years old and she did not start, much less among her favorites. She was facing five rivals with a larger track record to whom the pools gave more options to win, in part due to a blank year due to a serious knee injury that kept her out of the tatami for the entire 1990s. But without making a sound under her, her shy character eliminated one by one: first the American of Chinese origin Jo Quiring, then the Turkish Damla Caliskan, the British Sharon Rendle and the Chinese Zhong Li. In the final she faced the Japanese Noriko Mizoguchi, whom she had studied minutes before the match but whom she had never faced before. Almudena Muñoz, in the final against the Japanese Noriko Mizoguchi EFE –How do you remember that fight? – I remember the moment of the final calmly, I already had the money insured. I didn’t know my rival, they had told me that she was very good at ground judo and I felt strong and quite calm. I did my approach in foot judo with my grip and my movement and the truth is that I felt very excited, mentally strong and very eager. -You began scoring and endured the entire fight, were those four minutes very hard? – When I started the fight I saw myself far superior to her. I had the grip, the movement, the direction. I scored very quickly because I saw it very clearly and I could have had more opportunities to score, but since I was an unknown judoka, who kicked a lot, Japanese, because the Japanese work very well with movement, I didn’t want to risk it. – What was the first thing that came to your mind when the fight ended and the referee said ‘mate’? – That’s it, I’m done, I’ve done it. My dream realized. How I longed for that moment to come. – Was Miriam’s medal 24 hours earlier another point of pressure? – Pressure none. She had been injured two years earlier. Getting to the Olympic Games had taken a lot of work, a lot of effort. I wanted so much to get there because I saw myself with many possibilities… because whenever I went to an international tournament I was a medal. So, Miriam’s thing was: if she has achieved it, why can’t I achieve it? For me it was a shot of energy, she comforted me a lot. – Would you have liked to be the first? – No, I was very young, I was 23 years old, and Miriam was older, she was an experienced judoka and with a work team and a physical trainer and some possibilities that I did not have at that time. The beauty of this sport is that different methods and different ways of training and different people can achieve the same result. I think that Miriam deserved it, because of her trajectory, because of her effort and because of what had happened to her. It was like that because they went from heavy weight to light weight, if it had been the other way around it would have been me. But imagine, seeing me two years before without knowing if I was going to be able to walk again to win Olympic gold, what else did I care about the order. – He injured his knee very shortly before the Games – I broke everything. I was going to the Yugoslav championship and only Miriam, Begoña Gómez and I had qualified. I went to the concentration, I put myself with a judoka that I did not know of a higher weight and I broke my knee. Even a year later she had severe pain in her knee. She was walking down the street and people came up to me and she told me: do you know you’re lame? – Did that Olympic date change you? – Of course. It was very good for me because I was very shy and although judo is an individual sport you are always changing partners. I was very embarrassed to speak in public, eat with people, look them in the eye. So imagine, from one day to the next, everyone wanted to talk to you, do interviews, sign autographs… It was very good for me to get out of my comfort zone. – How did you suddenly take that leading role? – Super good. The Olympic Games in Barcelona were impressive. People were as if their children, or themselves, had been champions. They were so happy with the results. So I was absolutely grateful, it is that they were people who did not know you and yet they were super happy and excited about your result. It was an awesome feeling. – What did you like the most? – Everything, is that it was arriving and you already had people there. What impressed me the most is the unity and affection of the people. Everyone focused on making this work and enjoying the happiness of the people. I miss all of that very much, I have not lived through what was experienced in Barcelona again. – What do you keep today? – I have the medal at home in a display case, the Cobi mascot, the parade costume… In short, many things. Almudena Muñoz poses with her medal. ON CREDIT A historic appointment The magic of Barcelona 92 ​​made Spain achieve a total of 22 medals, a figure never seen before: 13 gold, seven silver and two bronze. Spanish sport experienced one of its sweetest moments to date and judo at a particular level, since the premiere of this sport as an Olympic in the women’s category contributed to fattening the medal table with the two metals of Miriam Blasco and Almudena Muñoz. Both judokas inaugurated a golden age in this sport that continued in the following editions, in which the Spanish delegation achieved great successes, making judo one of the most successful sports of the Olympic Games. Muñoz, who seriously weighed withdrawal after Barcelona, ​​changed his mind with great success. Only a year later she won the European championship and was runner-up in the world. She qualified for Atlanta 96, although this time she was left off the podium and her shoulder injury a year later forced her to retire from the mats, but not away from the sport. She currently works in the Sports Department of the Valencia City Council. Miriam Blasco, last June at an event in Benidorm. RFEJYDA Blasco, who after reaching the top of the Olympus did decide to leave high competition -her record already included a world gold and another European-, continued to be present in the successes that would come years later. Yolanda Soler and Isabel Fernández, both bronze medalists in Atlanta 96, were his students -Fernández went on to win gold in Sydney 2000 and has been the judoka with the most Olympic Games-. After winning gold and coaching Olympic champions, she devoted herself to Valencian politics. Now, she teaches judo classes at the club that bears her name, she does volunteer work and gives talks. She has recently published several children’s books about the sport that took her to the top with her wife. And it is that years after the appointment in Barcelona, ​​fate wanted her rival in the final, Kim Fairbrother, to become her partner outside the tatami.



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