Lydia Valentín retires. With her goes the best weightlifter that Spain has ever had, the only national athlete, woman or man, to win an Olympic medal in her specialty to date (she achieved gold in London 2012, also silver and bronze in Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016), a pioneer also in World Cups, as she is the only Spanish to be crowned the best, golds in 2017 and 2018. This Thursday, at an event at the Spanish Olympic Committee, accompanied by family and friends, Valentín (Ponferrada, 38 years) has put an end to her career: “I am leaving happy, full, calm and very grateful. I have achieved much more than I ever imagined. I have put my sport at the top of the world. Starting today, a new life begins that will be full of success, since I carry the values of the sport that I have learned.”
After two years without competing – his last participation was in August 2021, at the Tokyo Olympics – and due to a hip injury, Valentín had recently tried to prepare to qualify for the Paris Games next year. anus. Registered for the Havana Grand Prix, held last June, the athlete was ultimately unable to participate due to that injury and was also unable to be ready for the World Cup, held in the first fortnight of this month and which was a qualifier for the Games. for the same reason.
“I had the dream of going to Paris, but the Olympic Games demand a lot from you. There are 300 days left and we have to give our best, but with a hip injury I’ve had it’s complicated. I was clear that I was not going to compete if I am not the usual Lydia. I have achieved everything and to compete again and know that I already have what I am going to achieve, after a year or so of injury, makes me think about my health. This decision is considered, but I am leaving full and very happy. I don’t feel sad. It is brutal that people remember Lydia Valentín with weightlifting, a sport that is not a power in Spain,” she reflected.
Valentín came to weightlifting somewhat by chance, when he was 11 years old, in his town, Camponaraya, a small town of 4,000 inhabitants on the outskirts of Ponferrada (León). It had a sports program in which weightlifting was present thanks to the fact that, a few years before, the former mayor of this town, the socialist Antonio Canedo, had built a sports venue and placed Isaac Álvarez in charge, with whom he shared the passion for weightlifting, a specialty of which both were coaches. “I met her when he was seven years old. He had a natural talent, exceptional conditions. He excelled in gymnastics and played basketball spectacularly. She was very coordinated, with great power… he was superior to everyone,” Álvarez explained a few years ago.
Agile and competitive, Lydia’s attitude and aptitude stood out. In the newly created Camponaraya sports program, the coaches adored her. She was good at everything. “I was the one who ran the most, the one who jumped the most, the one who fought with the boys because the girls were no longer a match for me,” she explained to El País Semanal in 2018. When she was 11 years old, she tried weightlifting. He liked it and until today. “I was sure she was going to succeed. At 14 years old, when she was able to compete by age, she was proclaimed champion of Spain twice in a row,” Álvarez recalled. From there, the Spanish Weightlifting Federation opted for her and, at the age of 15, Lydia, the middle of three sisters, moved to Madrid, to the High Performance Center (CAR) of the Higher Sports Council, to the Joaquín Residence Blume, 400 kilometers from Camponaraya. “My parents were not selfish. They thought of me. They saw me so excited, so convinced, with so much desire… They believed that it could be my only chance,” Valentín herself explained.
Two delayed medals
Persevering, technically and physically very prepared, her mental strength allowed her to overcome different milestones throughout her career. From her beginnings in the CAR, where other athletes, as she herself remembered, gave up because they could not stand the pressure and demands, until she achieved Olympic glory in a delayed manner. In 2016, the disqualification for doping of several athletes of Russian, Belarusian, Kazakh and Chinese nationality in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic events gave her the silver and gold medals respectively in the Beijing and London events. It was a joy, although the damage of not being able to celebrate those medals years ago when appropriate was done. The economic impact in the form of unawarded ADO scholarships and lost potential sponsorships was also significant.
In 2020, when the pandemic broke out, Valentín hurriedly left CAR after a coach tested positive for Covid and went home, where he continued training. The Tokyo Games, which should have been held that summer, were postponed to the next, and at the Japanese event, where he was already 36 years old, he arrived with insufficient preparation. “I was not at my best moment or at my best performance. I hadn’t trained for three days and I’ve been doing this for many years. And miracles… No,” he acknowledged to this newspaper. Even then he was having problems with his hip and ended up giving up because of it in the middle of the Olympic competition. It was the beginning of his goodbye. Today was the final one. Lydia Valentín and the gesture of her heart with her hands with each victory achieved in her career are already sports history.
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