Mariana Pajón did not need the gold to continue maintaining her status as queen.
The limited but lively group of compatriots who were able to witness their intense finale at Tokyo 2020’s Ariake Park exploded with joy when they crossed the finish line second with his fast pink bike, just a few seconds from the first to do so, Britain’s Bethany Shriever.
“It’s silver but it’s worth like gold and more“, Exclaimed shortly after the Colombian, the woman with the highest number of gold medals in Latin America in individual sport in the Olympic Games. (London and Rio); showing disbelief with everything she had achieved without being “as I was 9 years ago or in Rio”, after a hard period of injuries and coronavirus.
“You are a berraca”, the press of her country told her under the intense heat of Tokyo, and she did not hesitate to make everyone her triumph: “This is how all Colombians are. You can go deep inside, listen to thousands of no’s, but if you think you can do it, just break them and show them that you can“.
Aware of his influence and always showing a sweet humility, his attention to the press did not fail at any time and as if that were not enough the time he dedicated to the media in the morning, at night he reserved part of his celebration for more interviews.
Among them, with BBC Mundo.
Trimedalist olympic. It feels?
I am very happy, very happy. This is incredible, I still don’t know how I did it; The truth is, they were very complex months, very hard, a gigantic challenge that I achieved and it is worth it if you really want it.
You were thousands of seconds away from getting the gold, your third in a Games. What went through your head when you crossed that finish line? Did you think you would get there?
Just getting to the final was a very big challenge, I was happy, I knew that if I ran strategically, smartly, I could get to position myself well.
The other runners are very good, I had raced with them, I had not done so well in previous competitions, and I knew that the challenge was enormous.
I don’t know why they left me in lane three, I was the last to choose, they left me in lane three and there I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. And it was simply to get well in that first bank and I made the exit of my life and I located myself.
When I saw myself second, I could not believe it, it even took me a while to start again and go to first, because I was impressed that I was already second.
This morning you commented that you felt that you were not like you were a few years ago. How did your serious injury affect you and pass the coronavirus? You have had a difficult time for an athlete.
The truth is, I had mononucleosis, I was injured, I had coronavirus … And I had more injuries, the same ligament but in the elbow, which I must also have surgery very soon.
And more things that the body has already been asking and screaming for a break, and this was all worth it.
I am very happy and so with pain and everything, if you want it then you arrive, whatever.
After the race, you talked about the pressure athletes feel. How do you see the Simone Biles case, who has put the mental health of athletes on the table at these Games? In your case, what kind of pressure do you feel and how do you manage it?
We all feel it. It is impressive, you have to know how to take it well and sometimes you get along, because you don’t even handle it.
Now with the issue of networks it is much stronger. Messages come to you, things come to you that really hurt and touch your soul.
In the end we are athletes and we go out to do our best and that’s it. We did not choose to be famous, we did not choose to have followers, we did not choose it, we thank you for all the love but sometimes it is a little more … our shoulders weigh down.
You have to wear it, know how to wear it and be well first. If you are right in the head (your heart, your tranquility, your conscience), then things flow.
Do you think the step that Biles and other athletes have taken is important, such as tennis player Naomi Osaka?
I was a gymnast and I follow her and I admire her too much and when she [Biles] He spoke and what happened happened to him, and the huge decision he made, I also had a break, really. Because if she feels it, then it was natural and normal that I could feel it because I was also in the same situation.
Truthfully, for a moment I said ‘I’m not going to the Olympic Games, this is over, I want to spend my life well, I have already accomplished what I had to accomplish’; Afterwards, your passion lights up and calls you out, but listening to her has helped many athletes, it helped me a lot.
You participated and were Olympic champion in London 2012 and Rio 2016. How have you experienced these unusual Games?
They are completely different Games, but also the last ones that I have competed have been one very different from the other. This yes for the pandemic, [por] not having your people around, without an audience … It’s very strange, but we took them forward and we are very fortunate to have a fair like this in the middle of the pandemic.
What does the future hold for you? Are you going to continue with BMX?
I love this. I really like the bicycle, I will continue if I feel that motivation and that passion.
I also really like the velodrome and suddenly want to dabble in it a bit and see what we can achieve there, but I will continue to enjoy the bike as always.
And… Paris 2024?
Paris… well, it’s close. It’s three years, but in three years a lot can happen.
Now we are in Tokyo, I want to enjoy this medal, go home, close the door and be with those I love the most and celebrate with them. Then I will make the decision.
A message for Latin Americaby Mariana Pajón
Tell them that we are strong, that we are fighters and warriors, that we can achieve whatever they want. And sometimes we will listen to many no, many impossible, and that must be broken, because if you really want it … you get it.
So let’s go ahead!
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