Barely 24 hours after Miriam Blasco’s historic gold medal, judo would award another gold medal at the Barcelona 92 Games
“Miriam’s gold motivated me. I went to sleep the night before thinking: ‘why can’t I?'” recalls Almudena Muñoz
Valencia welcomes us with a persistent rain. We have met with Almudena Munoz (Valencia, November 4, 1968) at the foot of El Hemisférico in the City of Arts and Sciences, in Valencia. Where now emerges a futuristic architectural complex designed by Santiago Calatrava y Félix Candela Our protagonist, in the eighties, trained and ran through the reeds and mud of what was then the end of the old Turia riverbed without knowing that one day she would achieve Olympic glory in Barcelona.
Almudena She surprises us arriving on the back of a bicycle and wearing an anorak that protects her from the water. While my partner Javi Ferrándiz draws the camera and mount your target, she takes out of her bag, with care, the medal of the 1992 Games. The passage of time has made a dent in the medal, volatilizing the 23-carat gold plating of the outer ring and showing the aged silver of its entrails.
Almudenahowever, 30 years after beating the Japanese in the final Noriko Mizoguchiarrives full of joviality, happy… and relives those days still with satisfaction. “It was a unique stage. I remember him with great affection, great joy. I still feel great satisfaction and the feeling of a duty fulfilled”recounts drawing a smile.
Just 24 hours before Almudena Munoz judo gold was hung, Miriam Blasco had taken center stage by being the forerunner, the first Spanish woman to do so in the Games. She, however, has never regretted not being in her place. “It was never a problem, on the contrary, for me it was a great joy. I went to sleep the night before thinking: ‘if she has made it, why can’t I?’ Her gold motivated me”.
A long ordeal until Barcelona 92
The path, however, to hang the golden metal was tortuous. Just two years before Barcelona, in training a judoka destroyed his knee. “I spent six months on crutches, then a year of very hard recovery, running through the dunes, it was very hard. The pain was still with me a year before the Games.”recalls.
That ordeal, far from sinking her, made her even stronger. “The bad moments, in the form of injuries, when things don’t go the way you want, are the ones that later lead you to achieve the results. If there are no sorrows, you don’t know how to enjoy the joys. If before the Games I had not passed that stage of effort, I would not have arrived so preparedwith so much desire, so much illusion…”.
Almudena remember back then “nobody gave a dime for me” but he managed to get to Barcelona without pressure, without fear of failing. “I was going for a medal, I was very clear that I could get it. I had prepared the fights, physically I felt very well and, above all, I was excited and wanted to achieve it”.
Watching the old images of the fight that would give him the gold, his reaction is surprising. While the thousands of spectators at the Palau applauded her deafeningly, Almudena he did not lose his composure. She greeted her rival and walked away from the tatami impassively, as if nothing had happened. “I snorted and said to myself: ‘That’s it, it’s over.’ I was in shock”. Minutes later, on the podium, when Carlos Ferrer Salat he hung the gold, now he did wear a broad smile and greeted the public effusively. “It was an indescribable feeling that I have never experienced again”.
Bye bye super shy girl
That medal not only revolutionized his sporting life, but also on a personal level. “She was 23 years old, she was very shy, super shy,” she stresses, “I had a very quiet life and I became a public figure. It was a radical change, for the better. It opened my vision to the world”.
Almudena reveals now, three decades later, that, after that fleeting explosion of popularity and fame, “After the Games my idea was to retire. Qualifying was so hard that I thought about changing my life. However, what I did was say: ‘Damn! With what it’s taken to get here, why not the European Championship, the World Cup…’. The medal encouraged me to continue competing.”
Her technique, impetus and courage led her to be European champion, world champion and to qualify for Atlanta 96, where, despite competing well, he could not reach the podium. A year later, an injury to his left shoulder precipitated his retirement, his farewell to tatami mats and judo.
His post-Olympic stage was quiet. Away from the spotlight, he currently tries to lead an anonymous life. She works surrounded by a pile of papers, but she is happy, in the Department of Sports of the Valencia City Council, in the Center Cultural i Esportiu La Petxina. She, already 53 years old, does not hide that she is still “Fighting, I do everything with effort and enthusiasm”. Although he frowns when you ask if his hometown valued Barcelona gold, he shows no resentment. “I do not care. I did not get the medal to be recognized. She wanted to be champion because she loved judo”. Almudena Muñoz assures “not to live in the past” but she tells me, excited, that she still has and drives the SEAT Toledo Podium that she received for winning the medal, that she has a small square named after her in Peñarrubia, a district of Albacete, and that in this year’s Fallas had a ninot with his figure wearing the judogi. She was not pardoned, she was not saved from the flames, but she smiles. 30 years later she can’t stop smiling. And she is happy…
Almudena was ‘covered’
That August 1, 1992 still the echoes of Miriam Blasco’s historic gold resonated in the Palau Blaugrana. Just one day later, same stage, same tatami, same sport, different protagonist. Almudena Muñoz started her way to the podium away from the gazeyes The pools distributed the medals in rivals with a more brilliant list of winners. After overcoming the first rounds, a key match came to him in the quarterfinals against Sharon Rendle. The British was one of the favorites. But the Valencian, sublime, broke the forecasts. Victory and semifinals against another ‘coconut’, the Chinese Li Zhonyun. Almudena he took the initiative in the whole fight and, again, he surprised: he was in the final! There she waited for him Noriko Mizoguchi, which he had never faced and which he studied on video minutes before the fight. The Japanese came out impetuous, but the Valencian defended herself fiercely. Mizoguchidesperate and enraged, could not with her and, in a counterattack in the final moments, Almudena Muñoz scored a koka. The triumph was his. She ended up exhausted and with burned feet, but the gold would shine on her neck.
Have the Barcelona 92 Games been the best Games in history?
“Of course, of course,” he replies immediately. Almudena Munozwithout hesitating for a second. “For me they were incredible. And the results for Spain make it very clear: they are the Olympic Games that have won the most medals. I continue to keep indelible memories of Barcelona, memories that are unforgettable. That was a dream, it was impressive. Like the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, there have never been others like them”, he says emphatically.