Venezuelan judoka María Gimenez won a particularly special gold medal on the first day of competition at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games. It is the first gold for her country in a Youth Olympic Games and the first for a Latin American nation at Buenos Aires 2018.
At only 16 years old, Gimenez got a sound victory in the -44kg category and set a new milestone for Venezuelan sport. Her country has never managed to climb to the top of a Youth Olympic podium before: Venezuela previously won two silver and three bronze medals at Singapore 2010, and none at Nanjing 2014.
"I feel very proud of having honoured my country and getting the gold medal," said Gimenez, who previously also won gold at the Santiago 2017 South American Youth Games and became Pan American cadet champion in her category this year.
"I was very excited to see that all my efforts weren’t in vain and that I was able to give my best on the tatami. I dedicate this triumph to my family, to my sensei and to all of Venezuela," the judoka said. "I never imagined that I would achieve something this big. I’ve been training from a very young age and this is a dream come true," she added.
The athlete born in Puerto Ordaz, a town in Bolivar state, received a bye in the first round and went straight to the quarterfinals, where she defeated Argentina's Mikaela Rojas with a win by ippon. At the semifinals, she beat Ukrainian Anastasiia Balaban with a waza-ari and, in the decisive match for the gold medal, Gimenez surpassed India’s Tababi Devi Thangjam via ippon (11-0).
"I'm already looking forward to getting home so I can hug my parents and teammates," Gimenez said. "I really feel very proud of my performance today. This is something new for me. I won this medal with tears, effort and passion.”