David García del Valle (Almería, 1981) is an athlete from Almeria who competed in judo, which, thanks to his achievements in the Paralympic Games and other international events, has managed to carve out a name for himself in Andalusia on his own merits. He is 41 years old, has been doing judo since he was two and a half years old and lives with a congenital visual disability, which does not prevent him from being an excellent athlete. He participated in no less than four Summer Paralympics, between 2000 and 2012, obtaining a total of two silver medals, one in Sydney (2000) and another in Athens (2004), in the -66 kg category. With his retirement in 2014, after his last participations in the 2012 London Olympic Games and in the 2013 European Championship in Eger (Hungary), he began a new journey in the world of inclusion, and what better way to do it than through of sport, in this case with judo. That year he founded the Koudougakusya Judo Club, aimed mainly at low-income people and at risk of exclusion, and since then he has been a national coach and trainer of future judokas. He started giving judo classes in Vícar, and from there he has taken the club headquarters to different parts of the province, from Alhama de Almería to Carboneras, Aguadulce (Roquetas de Mar) and Almería, the capital. Those who know him speak of David as an outgoing and likeable man, modest and a fighter for what he wants and believes is right. Since the morning of Monday, June 5, this double Paralympic medalist has been on a hunger strike collecting signatures at the door of the Diputación de Almería, where he remains day and night, only drinking water and liquids, with the only hope of getting Do not evict him from the facilities of the Moisés Ruiz de Almería Pavilion, where he currently dedicates his time teaching this sport to more than one hundred children of different ages.
R. G. F.: Tell me about your beginnings in judo.
David: The truth is that I don’t remember them, I started judo at the age of two and a half, in September 1983, my parents believed that it was the best for me as an integrating element. So you can say that I’ve been doing this all my life.
R. G. F.: What did it feel like to be champion of Spain in light weight at only 15 years old?
David: Well, a very great joy, I had had years where the results did not come out, until that Sunday when everything went very well.
R. G. F.: Do you remember the fights you had with the Japanese Satoshi Fujimoto?
David: There have been two epic fights with Satoshi, in the Sydney 2000 final, and in Athens 2004. The one in Athens I remember very vividly. I was injured, I tore my hamstring the afternoon before, the odds left me out, but the doctors on my team did an incredible job, and I did what I had to do, fight and not give up, as I have done all my life. That way I won fights until I reached the final with Satoshi, who I remember with a lot of energy and tension, knowing my physical limitation, but he was very strong and very sure. The match came to a draw at the end of time, and I ended up losing in overtime after a disputed decision. For all those difficulties, that fight with the great champion and friend Satoshi Fujimoto, I remember in a special way.
R. G. F.: What has been the most memorable championship of your life? And the deadliest?
David: Possibly the most memorable is the Athens 2004 final, and at the same time the deadliest due to the injury I had. But it is true that I have a championship in my retina that always awakens a special joy in me, and it was the European Team Championship that we won in Austria in 1999, the only time that Spain has won gold in this competition. Of course there are more tournaments that I cherish.
R. G. F.: In May 2009, you received the Sports Merit Medal from His Majesty King Juan Carlos I. What did it mean for you to receive recognition like this?
David: Well, as they told me before the delivery, this recognition would mark my sporting life. Even as a Republican, I felt very proud of such recognition proposed by the Council of Ministers of the Zapatero Government.
R. G. F.: After a magnificent career, being a Paralympian, several times Spanish champion, European continental champion, world champion… What contribution do you think you can give to national judo?
David: I don’t think I can contribute much, since Spanish judo is in very good hands, with a very brilliant development in recent years with several medals in world championships, and world-class coaches.
R. G. F.: Your career as a judoka continued with that of a national coach, how important is it to have continued training off the mat?
David: A judoka is always in continuous learning and evolving. We are aware that the life of an athlete is limited at an early age, and being a referee or coach, as is my case, is a natural process for judoka, just like never stopping learning.
R. G. F.: At present, you dedicate all your time and attention to the Koudougakusya Judo Club. Who directs it and what projects do you have?
David: I am the director, but I have to say that without the team of monitors who support me or have supported me in the past, this club would not exist. People like Ángel Suanes, who selflessly helps us with everything and brings great experience as a teacher, and, of course, Javi Escamilla, my other right-hand man like Ángel, who helps me, supports me, and is in charge of defending me. club staff, are what keep it alive. But just like them there are many students or parents of students who with their involvement make the club grow and be strong. As projects we maintain our hallmark: inclusive judo is our brand, from there we get other projects such as leisure judo, family judo, competition judo, etc.
R. G. F.: The competitors that you train have won several awards. Which one have you been most excited about?
David: Well, in recent years several judokas from the club have been distinguished with medals outside the province; such is the case of María del Mar Suanes, who has been champion of Andalusia and third this year, or Adam Achor, with a bronze. And in the adult category, we have excelled in the Master’s Cups of Spain, obtaining various medals, especially pointing out the gold and bronze for Ángel Suanes, in 2019 and 2020 correlatively.
R. G. F.: What does judo bring to your students? And what do you feel when a child or adult is acquiring the knowledge that you instill in them and is applying it in combat?
David: Judo, like other sports, gives you discipline, perseverance, as well as technical richness and good physical condition. It is comforting when you see that the students integrate into the group, and that they improve their motor development. Getting them to do the techniques as I teach them is important. But more important is when I make them understand that judo is something open, and that each athlete has to adapt the technique to their morphology.
R. G. F.: I want to make visible the situation that you are experiencing since Monday morning at the door of the Diputación de Almería and show you my support for it. Tell me a little about the subject, explain to me what happened. Why are you on hunger strike? And what do you hope to achieve?
David: First of all, thank you for the public support. I am on an indefinite hunger strike because it seems unfair to me that, after more than ten years paying rent in a room in the Moisés Ruiz Pavilion (a room that the Sports Area itself has used, renting it out whenever it wanted and with our consent), and that after having set it up and equipped it with the best sports equipment, now they “discard us” like a cigarette butt. Even more so when the inclusive project that we carry out in that room is extremely important for so many people. There are many entire families doing judo, which in other circumstances would not have been able to do it. In these groups we have children with disabilities, with low resources, at risk of exclusion, etc. And for me it is an honor to be able to be with them and be their teacher. For them I am on a hunger strike waiting for the president of the Provincial Council to reconsider his decision to strip us of the facilities and give us an option to continue developing judo in this city.
R. G. F.: Do you know if there are other sports clubs in Almería that are going through the same or similar situation to yours?
David: There are none with this problem. Yes, there are other clubs that the Almería City Council protects as they deserve, providing them with rooms and the necessary support for the development of their activity.
R. G. F.: One last question, what is your next project?
David: My next project is to be able to continue with judo in the city, in the pavilion that saw us born as a sport, such as the Moisés Ruiz Pavilion. Our students deserve it. I can’t think of anything else other than ensuring that those more than a hundred children who learn judo at the club can continue with their usual activity.
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