Judoka Alana Maldonado, from Tupã (SP), consolidated her pioneering vocation at dawn this Sunday (29) by winning the first gold medal for women’s judo in a Paralympics by beating Ina Kaldani, from Georgia, by waza-ari, in final of the 70 kg category of the Tokyo Games.
At 26, Alana, who was also the first Brazilian world champion in the sport, credited the historic achievement in Japan to the influence of her family in the interior of São Paulo, both from her grandmother, who worked at a gym and always took her to practice, how much of an uncle, a judo coach.
“I started practicing when I was four years old, my grandmother worked at the city’s gym, so every day I was there because she took me. My uncle is also a judo teacher, so it was really an influence from the family”, revealed Alana, shortly before leaving for Tokyo.
Alana Maldonado with her second Paralympic medal, now the gold one — Photo: Matsui Mikihito/CPB
Despite this “family heritage”, the 26-year-old judoka, who moved to São Paulo seven years ago after becoming an athlete at Palmeiras, recognizes the importance of the professional support she had in her career to become a multi-champion paraathlete, who now counts two Paralympic medals – she was also silver at Rio-2016.
“What inspires me is my journey, you know? It took five years of all the work we did after the silver in Rio, together with the technical committee. Look back and see how much we’ve improved, how much we’ve sought to evolve. I just have to thank the multidisciplinary team of the national team, which is amazing, which has been developing a job, it motivates me every day to reach the top – said the judoka in an interview with G1.
- + Check out the Tokyo Paralympics medal chart
- + Check the Paralympic Games schedule
Alana Maldonado in childhood with her grandfather in Tupã (SP) — Photo: Personal Archive
The journey mentioned by Alana, which began at age 4, logically includes the harsh diagnosis received at age 14 of Stargardt’s disease, a congenital anomaly that causes progressive loss of vision (rarely total) due to degeneration of the central part of the retina. Now, at age 26, Alana has only 10% of the vision in each eye.
But what could put an end to Alana’s sporting trajectory in judo was just the beginning. She remembers that she met and fell in love with Paralympic judo in 2014.
“Who helped me to know [o judô paralímpico] and entering the modality was the staff of AMEI [Associação Mariliense de Esportes Inclusivos], by Marília, of which I still belong. As much as we find difficulties in the way of sports and in our lives, giving up judo never crossed my mind”, said Alana.
In the wake of the Paralympic gold, Alana Maldonado took the opportunity to ask for reinforcements in supporting the Paralympic sport and thank the Brazilian fans and especially the family, through social networks. Mother Patrícia and brother Rafael joined other family members this morning to cheer for the judoka.
“I would like to thank all the fans and ask people to support the Paralympic sport. Attend the Paralympic Games, send positive energy and keep cheering for us. All this energy makes a lot of difference, we feel this heat”, he said.
Alana Maldonado’s mother and brother (from right), together with family members gathered in Tupã to watch the Paralympic final — Photo: Personal archive
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* Collaborated under the supervision of Sérgio Pais
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