Judo Peru | María Martínez, head honcho of Peruvian judo: “In the 2028 Olympic Games we must get a medal” | Pan American Games Santiago 2023 | Olympic Games Paris 2024 | RMMD EMCC | FULL-SPORTS

María has lived in Peru since 2012 and eight years later she decided to take on the great challenge of managing the governing body of this contact sport. This is how she projects a better development in the sports field, since one of her biggest dreams is for one of her athletes to win an Olympic medal in gratitude for Peru.

How did you get introduced to judo?

I started when I was little, it was not the only sport that I practiced, I also did handball, table tennis and in fact it was not the one that I liked the most from the beginning (judo) and in fact I went because of a rule from my mother. I didn’t want to stay Jewish. I was used to winning things and at first I didn’t win anything with judo so I got bored.

Have you been developing more in the management area instead of the sports side?

Initially in sports, for many years I was a coach, it continues to be my great passion. I still have a hard time not being the one sitting in the chair directing the competitors. The part that cost me the most was to stop being a coach, but at some point I had to assume the leadership of the technical unit because it was important to be able to move to that area to develop the federation’s project.

How did you get to Peru?

My initial stage with judo is in Spain, and my relationship with Peru began because the COP called me to do a series of courses. The IPD calls me and brings me to Peru. I start taking athletes from the national team and work with that team. The first years I came and went from Spain and then in 2012 I moved to Peru to stay. I am Spanish by birth and Peruvian by marriage to Carlos Zegarra, president of the Pan American Judo Confederation.

Since when did you assume the presidency?

I’ve been here for two years, well since 2021, the elections were postponed, but there was a small difference due to the pandemic.

María Martínez arrived in Peru in 2012. (Photo: Peruvian Judo Federation)

He had to face difficult years of pandemic…

It was complicated, but it was a challenge. Finally, it is about looking forward every day and seeing what the goals are and seeing how difficulties are overcome. It was difficult, but we began to see what we could do, distance training, by zoom, little by little they were reintegrated, until they returned to the relative normality that is now. The clubs and the national team are up and running, with some problems brought on by the pandemic, but there is a solution to the problems as it should be.

This year Peru has hosted a couple of judo tournaments such as

Since 2016 we have been the venues for an event that is within the Olympic Games classification, which is the Pan American Open, and then we have another one that they granted us the venue in 2018, which is the Junior and Cadet Pan American Cup, which also gives them points for the world ranking. This year was special because we also hosted the Continental Championship, and in it those points are given for the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games and for adding to the world ranking for a qualification to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

How is national judo at the moment?

In these years that I have been linked to Peruvian judo, I can tell you that it is in a good moment, we have made progress in many things. I have people around me who have helped me push forward a project, which I believe is very relevant in many aspects and thanks to work, enthusiasm, We have managed to make this project take off within the national scene and be respected internationally. We still have a long way to go, we have objectives such as medals in the world championship, the Olympic Games, which we still do not have to achieve, but we are closer.

Speaking of awards, a 7th Dan is not obtained by just anyone…

It was a great emotion because I did not expect that recognition. A 7th Dan is not so easy to achieve. It is not just about having the knowledge, but about everything you have done in your life to achieve great things in the world of judo. He was valuing the work he had done in a positive way. It is always a great responsibility to have a badge.

Above all, because you are the first Peruvian woman to obtain it…

When I got here I did notice that they wondered if women were going to get Great Danes in a world reserved for men. And in all this time I have met great women dedicated to judo, coaches, leaders, among others who have put everything into judo to grow. Maybe I am the first to obtain that degree but I feel that I am a reference to be able to tell others that they can reach this point.

What are the requirements to acquire and level up Danes?

Judo is divided into belts, so one ascends according to the knowledge you have in technical management, the knowledge in terms of performance and also in everyone that you are contributing to the development of judo. The first years you appear in front of a court, you show what you know and tell your CV. From the first Dan it is considered that you have a different status, that you have already demonstrated a high level of knowledge. From them many years apart, I got my first Dan at 16 and now I’m 50.

Have you ever imagined going so far with judo?

Not really, I have not been an ambitious person in terms of passing grades, It is a very important achievement, but it was not something that was a priority for me, it just happened because of the conditions. But as a child I never imagined myself with a seventh degree.

It is said that it is never too late to fulfill your dreams, do you have any pending to fulfill?

At a professional level I have many, linked to judo, I have pending is to get an Olympic medal with Peru.

We are close to Paris 2024, do you envision it in these next Olympic Games?

It’s not impossible, but now I wouldn’t commit to Paris 2024, but I don’t see it that far away. In Paris we must get closer, and in fact in 2028 we must achieve it.

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